Catfish Angling and Harvest Statistics with an Emphasis on Trophy Blue Catfish Management

Increasing interest in “trophy” catfish angling in Oklahoma has prompted Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) staff to collect basic biological data aimed at managing these fisheries. In light of recent studies indicating slow growth rates of reservoir blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) populations, management of trophy fisheries becomes challenging. In an effort to better understand catfish angler and harvest statistics, ODWC Law Enforcement Division personnel interviewed catfish anglers statewide to determine angling method, average angler party size and species, numbers, and sizes of catfish harvested. Data were collected from 4007 catfish anglers (1889 parties contacted) on 66 bodies of water from May 2006 through December 2007. Most anglers pursued catfish using rod and reel (69.1%), followed by juglines (23.7%), trotlines (5.0%), and limblines or noodling (2.2%). Rod and reel angling accounted for most catfish harvested (4425), followed by juglines (2206). However, juglines were more efficient with a catch rate of 2.3 (SE = 0.033) fish per angler versus 1.6 (SE = 0.083) fish per rod and reel angler. Only 2.5% of rod and reel anglers and 1.2% of jugline anglers reached the daily creel limit [15 blue catfish and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) in aggregate]. Only 6.0% of all anglers harvested preferred size (>762 mm) blue catfish; and of this group, over half (55.4%) harvested more than one preferred size blue catfish. The majority of preferred size blue catfish (54.5%) were harvested in cool water periods (1 November through 18 May). Even though harvest of preferred size blue catfish is low (6.0% of total blue catfish harvest), it exceeds the percentage of preferred size blue catfish in ODWC population samples (0.7%). Agency discussion of potential management strategies to maintain the “trophy” status of blue catfish fisheries has led to a proposed regulation limiting the harvest of preferred size blue catfish.

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