Posted by Mike Mitchell on March 10, 2005 at 19:06:03:
In Reply to: Tagging Fish posted by flytyer on March 09, 2005 at 21:06:45:
Fishing for answers
Study will check catfish population in Wilson Lake
By Dennis Sherer
Most anglers who fish Wilson Lake are aware that plenty of catfish, many of which weigh at least 25 pounds, live there.
Catching enough 1- to 5-pound catfish to fill a boat's livewell is not difficult. Reeling in a catfish larger than a small child is not uncommon on the lake that borders Lauderdale, Colbert and Lawrence counties.
Little is known, however, about why there are so many catfish in the lake or why they grow so large.
Biologists from Auburn University and the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries have launched a study they hope will unravel many of the mysteries about catfish in Wilson Lake.
"There has not been a study of catfish like this in the past," said Keith Floyd, a supervising fisheries biologist for the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. "I fish on Wilson and see people catching a lot of catfish and wonder how the lake continues to produce the number and size of catfish that it does."
Michael Holley. a graduate student at Auburn who is helping coordinate the study, said the study can answer many questions biologists and anglers have about catfish.
"There has not been a whole lot of work done on catfish. That's one of the reasons we are doing this study," Holley said.
Biologists hope the study will provide details about the catfish population structure on Wilson Lake as well as reveal the movements of the fish.
As part of the study, biologists have attached tags to 130 catfish that were caught and then released into Wilson Lake.
Anglers who catch the tagged fish can help the study by mailing the bright orange tag to Auburn University Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. Postage-paid envelopes for mailing the tags are available at the Joe Wheeler State Park cabin office near Wheeler Dam. Envelopes are also available at bait and tackle stores near Wheeler Dam.
Holley, along with other students from Auburn, plan to attend the weigh-in for a Southern Catfishermen Association fishing tournament on Wilson Lake on Saturday, March 26, to collect additional fish for tagging.
The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries hopes to collect more catfish this summer by using a boat that can deliver an electrical charge into the water that temporarily stuns nearby fish.
It will be the first time the agency has targeted catfish with electrofishing. It normally targets bass, crappie, bream and other game fish in water 10 feet deep and shallower.
Floyd said some fisheries biologists in western states have been able to capture catfish by electrofishing in water up to 50 feet deep.
The water in many western states, however, is more alkaline than Wilson Lake. Alkaline water conducts electricity more easily.
"We don't know if we will be able to bring catfish in deep water up to the surface on Wilson with electrofishing, but we're going to give it a try," Floyd said.
He said the study is a result of increased interest in fishing for catfish on the Tennessee River.
Once a species stalked only by people searching for a few fish to fry, catfish are now popular among recreational anglers. There are now catfish tournaments on the Tennessee River, as well as fishing guides who specialize in helping anglers catch big catfish.
Catfish are now a non-game species in Alabama's portion of the Tennessee River with no restrictions on the number or size of fish anglers are allowed to keep.
The study could help biologists decide if restrictions are needed to protect catfish populations in the river.
Southern Catfishermen Association Director Mike Mitchell said he hopes the study will lead to restrictions being placed on the number of large catfish anglers are allowed to keep. He fears large catfish are being removed from the Tennessee River to stock pay lakes in northern states.
Mitchell said many of the giant catfish in Wilson Lake are 25 years old and older.
Mitchell said if anglers are allowed to remove as many giant catfish as they wish from Tennessee River lakes, it will not take long for the population of large fish to be depleted. He said it would take many years to replace the lost fish.
Mitchell said Tennessee allows anglers to keep only one catfish 34 inches or longer per day. He said such a rule in Alabama would help ensure the population of giant catfish in the Tennessee River will not be depleted.
"I'm glad to see someone finally doing a study of catfish. I anxious to find out what they learn from the study," Mitchell said.
Dennis Sherer can be reached at 740-5746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please come out and support this on March 26th at Fleet Harbor in Muscle Shoals 8AM-4PM
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