Use of Drift Nets for Assessing Reproductive Output and Suggestions for Stocking Needs of Channel Catfish in Streams

We used larval drift nets to assess reproductive output of channel catfish (lctalurus punctatus) in order to determine stocking needs in the Kings, Mulberry, Illinois, and Buffalo rivers in Arkansas. In each river, drift nets were deployed at the head of riffles and fished on random dates from 15 June to 22 July 1991 to determine relative abundance of young-of-year (YOY) catfish. Abundance of YOY catfish, an index of reproductive output, varied significantly among rivers, although all rivers are similar in geomorphology and located in the same physiographic region of the state. The Illinois River had the highest average catch (56.7 YOY channel catfish/net) and the Buffalo River had the lowest (1.0 YOY channel catfish/net). Age structure of adult channel catfish in the Buffalo River verified low reproductive output documented from drift net samples, as no Age 1 catfish were collected in 1991 or 1992 and 93% of the existing population consisted of previously stocked fish. Drift nets proved useful as a simple technique to assess reproductive output of channel catfish in moderate-size rivers. Subsequently, this information was useful in determining stocking needs for these rivers.

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