A Fish Health Assessment and Liver Lipid Content Examination of Catfish Populations in the

A modified fish health assessment index (mHAI) and liver lipid concentration was used to determine condition of individual blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), channel catfish (I. punctatus), and flathead catfish (Pylodictus olivarus) in tailwater and reservoir habitats of the Coosa River, Alabama. Our goal was to describe and compare condition using a mHAI and liver lipid analyses of catfishes from the Coosa River. Tissues and organs of fish were collected, evaluated and scored for deviations from normal appearances to derive a mHAI score for each fish. Percent liver lipid content was also determined. Health of all catfish, based on mHAI, was generally good. No differences in health were found for blue catfish and channel catfish by season or habitat. Flathead catfish health varied seasonally. No seasonal or habitat differences in percent liver lipids were found for any species. The mHAI may have failed to capture subtle differences in health that may have existed for habitat generalists such as catfishes. Further adaptation of the mHAI may be necessary; however, it is plausible that conditions in the productive Coosa River were conducive to overall good health of individuals and populations of catfishes. Liver lipids may not be the best metric for measuring condition; specific lipids (e.g. triglycerides) should be investigated. Recent interest in managing catfish stocks warrants the need for population health and condition assessments.

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