Food Habits of Flathead Catfish in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina

Food habits of flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) in the Cape Fear River were determined through analysis of 184 stomachs collected during the spring and summer of 1986. Fish were collected with a 5-bar, hand-cranked telephone generator (magneto). The objective was to determine if frequency of occurrence and percent by numbers of individual food items in the diet of flathead catfish changed significantly between 1979 and 1986. Current data indicate ictalurids, clupeids, and centrarchids remain the primary food items in the diet of Cape Fear River flathead catfish; however, a shift from ictalurids to clupeids as the primary food item occurred between 1979 and 1986. Centrarchids occurred with equal frequency in flathead catfish stomachs during 1979 and 1986 but were less numerous in the 1986 samples. There is no evidence to support anglers> claims that flathead catfish may be responsible for the reputed decline in sunfish populations within the river. Decapods were more abundant in flathead catfish stomachs in 1986 while frequency of occurrence remained unchanged. Pelecypods were less abundant in the 1986 samples but occurred with significantly higher frequency.

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