Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Invasive Flathead Catfish Found in NJ

Flathead Catfish
Pylodictus olivaris
Photo: Eric Engbretson, DOI, Fish and Wildlife Service, Invasive.org

The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has verified a 5.5 pound, 20-inch Flathead Catfish was caught in the Delaware River at the Fireman’s Hole, Lambertville, on June 10, 2009. This is the third confirmed catch in New Jersey.

The first of these three Delaware River Flathead catfish was caught in 1999. It is believed that the fish originated from a reproducing population in the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania.

Flathead catfish are native to a broad area west of the Appalachian Mountains encompassing the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River basins. They are an extremely predaceous catfish, reproducing and dispersing rapidly in river systems. Flathead catfish have been documented to eat substantial numbers of American shad during their spawning run. In the southeastern United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed it as its highest priority among invasive animal species.

Flatheads can grow to a large size, and in warmer climates 90 to 100 pound fish have been documented. The body is yellowish brown to dark brown with black or brown mottling on lighter brown sides. It has a broadly flattened head and a tail that is only slightly indented, appearing more rounded or square. The key characteristic that helps anglers distinguish the flathead catfish from other catfish is that the lower jaw of the Flathead catfish projects past the upper jaw.

Anglers that catch what they think is a Flathead catfish are asked not to release it back into the water. A photograph of the fish is requested to confirm identification.

Notify the Division's Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at:

Lebanon Field Office
1255 County Route 629
Lebanon, NJ 08833
908-236-2118 E-mail: mark.boriek@earthlink.net

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