Food Habits of Catfishes in Tailwater and Reservoir Habitats in a Section of the Coosa River, Alabama

The food habits of blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), channel catfish (I. punctatus), and flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) in a section of the Coosa River, Alabama, were determined by examining the contents of 800 catfish stomachs from tailwater and reservoir habitats on the Coosa River from 2001-2002. Stomachs were described using the Relative Importance Index. Small blue catfish consumed mainly molluscs in tailwaters and insects in reservoir habitats. Insects were most important to larger blue catfish in both habitats. Channel catfish consumed mostly insects in both habitats but a wider diversity was present in the diets from tailwater catfish. Flathead catfish had similar feeding patterns in both habitats. Small flathead catfish consumed mostly crayfish and zooplankton in tailwaters, whereas insects and fish were most important in reservoir areas. Mid-size flathead catfish consumed mainly fish and crayfish in both habitats and fish was overwhelmingly the most important diet item for large flathead catfish. Increased quantity and quality of prey items may have contributed to increased abundance, growth, and condition of catfishes in tailwater areas.

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