Lots of Catfish. His report this week on our new Chesapeake species is the result. Congress isn’t helping. Fishing is part of the solution. In Maryland, it is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish into another body of water, anyone in violation of this can be fined up to $2,500. I tell people all the time, find the bait, you find the fish. How it succeeded! Find The Bait, You Find The Fish. Blue Catfish were introduced to tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in the 1970s and 1980s to establish new fisheries, but their presence has generated concern for native species. The good news is that blue catfish are delicious, and are now easy to find in restaurants and grocery stores in and around the Chesapeake Bay area. Tasty is the rating they usually get — especially when the taste and words are on the lips of people responsible for making lemonade out of these piscatorial lemons. Join the citizen science effort coordinated by researchers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to help track the current distribution and the spread of the non-native blue catfish into the upper Chesapeake Bay and into Delaware Bay and the Delaware River. But no one knows how many blue catfish would need to be caught to reduce potential conflicts with other species — or whether a market exists for that large a catch. Blue catfish, which were introduced by Virginia officials to the James River for sport fishing, might number more than 100 million in the Chesapeake Bay now, researchers say. Soak the catfish fillets in milk to cover in a shallow dish for 1 hour. That’s about when our new neighbor and avid fisher Jack Dowd started catching assorted catfish at our local bridge, a fishing locale Bill knows well. The blue catfish is a major predator of the blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Renee Mercaldo-Allen (far left) works with and helps Hollings Scholar Eileen Bates (center) and Volunteer Allie Grusky (right) quickly process fish traps during field work aboard the R/V Loosanoff in Long Island Sound. Closer to saltwater, peeler crab, soft crab, bloodworms, and squid are often preferred. Blue catfish, which were first introduced by Virginia officials to the James River for sport fishing, might number more than 100 million in the Chesapeake Bay now, researchers say. Commercial and recreational fisherman have been catching blue catfish for decades, mostly in the James River. Bill, like my mother, just about lives to fish. While flathead catfish are not as abundant nor as well-studied as blue catfish in Chesapeake Bay, they are of primary concern in the fresher waters of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Show us your blue catfish catch! The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's education workboats have been catching them off Annapolis during school field trips this spring. “Tastes good,” Gov. His report this week on our new Chesapeake species is the result. In the Chesapeake Bay, blue catfish are a popular recreational fishery. Will the fish prevail? The VMRC has named the growing blue catfish population as one of the factors responsible for the low harvest numbers for crabs this year. They eat the same plants, insects, fish, and blue crabs that native fish depend on, and then eat the native fish, too! This is the simplest way to go about finding and catching blue catfish. They are harvested mainly with baited hoop nets and a very low to no by-catch. Giant blue catfish swarm the tidal rivers off the Chesapeake Bay, and tempting anglers across the Mid-Atlantic region. Virginia Sea Grant Graduate Research Fellow Joe Schmitt (pictured on the right) and his undergraduate assistant Hae Kim show off their catch of blue catfish landed for Joe’s study of their diets. While adult blue catfish have few natural predators in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, they are among the preferred prey of both osprey and bald eagles. When we went for bass, I’d fish for catfish. Originally from the Mid-West, native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers, the blue catfish was brought to Virginia in the 1970s and 80s as … Many people fish on the bottom when targeting blue catfish. It is smooth-skinned, with a bluish- or greenish-gray body, a silvery white belly and olive fins. Catch and release of these fish is discouraged, as they are invasive top predators and pose a serious long-term threat to our native species. Bald Eagle Aerobatics Draw Photographers to Conowingo. While both fish are long-lived and fast-growing, it’s the blue catfish that is the major problem. They are primarily fished using hook and line. And share your stories of catching, cooking and eating blue catfish: ­[email protected], Health and Wellness (Under the Circumstances), Chesapeake Beach Play Area Renamed for Senate President, VIDEO: Virtual Polar Plungers Get Creative (and Cold), Nation’s Largest Oyster Festival to Keep its Venue, Thanks to Open Space Grant, Pair of Va. Tree Planting Bills Move Forward. It’s what my mother, an avid angler, grew up catching in Southern Illinois ponds, until fate dropped her in Key West for a few years. Adults usually grow to be less than two feet long, but can be as long as five feet and weigh more than 100 pounds. But I’ll still order that in a central Illinois restaurant, like the Ozark House in Bloomington-Normal. As our great estuary becomes more like midland rivers — burdened by silt and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms and homes — it will feel ever more like home to blue catfish. To catch channel catfish, anglers usually fish with cut baits, including fish, crabs, squid, chicken livers, shrimp, crayfish, nightcrawlers, or bloodworms. Its tail fin is deeply forked. There is no limit to the number of blue or flathead catfish an angler can catch and keep in Maryland. So blue cats now show up in other places like the James River in Virginia and even the Chesapeake Bay. While both fish are long-lived and fast-growing, it’s the blue catfish that is the major problem. I had a bad feeling the Bunker I bought was rotten and I was right. My first thought was that I was seeing small tree trunks or the remains of fence posts coming up from the bottom. Read his story. If you catch a catfish in Chesapeake Bay, there’s a good chance it’s an invader from the Mississippi River drainage–probably a blue catfish, though it could be a less common flathead catfish. These catfish have done an excellent job of taking over the Chesapeake Bay area since they were introduced to the James, York, and Rappahannock Rivers during the 1970s-80s. Blue catfish is a newcomer to Washington stores and restaurants, it’s sustainably caught in the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s probably tastier than any catfish you’ve ever had. Plus, eating them — at least as a regular diet — might be self-defeating because of the mercury and toxic chemicals they pick up in abundance while bottom-feeding. Never catfish. The wild caught fishery for blue catfish has grown steadily in recent years, providing revenue for fishermen and the businesses that support them. These fast-growing aquatic goats can multiply into a dominant species, “representing up to 75 percent of total fish biomass,” Bill learned. Left unchecked, they threaten native species, including endangered and commercially important species. The Chesapeake Bay has many different types of fish, so one is bound to fit your personal tastes. Fishing for these blue cats helps the native fish and habitats, as well as the local economy—a win all the way around. Tim Shugrue is vice president of Congressional Seafood in Jessup, MD, which is the largest processor of blue catfish around the Bay. While the freshwater-loving fish also do well in brackish environments, record 2018 rainfalls in the Bay watershed created even more hospitable conditions. In a second dish, mix the flour, cornmeal, old Bay or Cajun seasonings, cayenne and salt and pepper. The blue catfish is a long fish with a flat dorsal fin and deeply forked tail. Originally intended to establish a new recreational fishery in Virginia, these fish have been so successful that, in recent surveys of the tidal James and Rappahannock rivers, they made up 75 percent of the total fish biomass. Lucky or species-targeting anglers now and again got flounder or red or black drum or some oddity like the record Florida pompano just caught in our waters. Rockfish are biting now. Fishing and Seafood Industries Saw Broad Declines Last Summer Due to COVID-19, Agency Approach to Saltwater Recreational Fishing Has Changed, Progressed through Partnership, President Signs New Executive Order Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth, Industry-Funded Monitoring in the Atlantic Herring Fishery, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION, Report a Stranded or Injured Marine Animal, Tim Sughrue of Congressional Seafood Company, Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. I’ve always been obsessed with catching big fish. Perhaps we ought to take the fight to the fish? But that’s an issue for another time. Like everybody else’s, his catch was filled out with perch, croaker, spot and, about this time of year, Spanish mackerel. And they can be massive—the largest one on record in Maryland was 84 pounds, while the largest in Virginia was 102 pounds. Recreational Fishery . While both fish are long-lived and fast-growing, it’s the blue catfish that is the major problem. Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office I may have found the best fishing spot in the Chesapeake Bay. Blue catfish are destroying the Chesapeake Bay. This year catfish is the big catch. Date Posted: 2017-06-14 Source: The Washington Post. Or can we outmaneuver them? These highly adaptable species were introduced and have since spread all over the watershed, competing with native species and eating much of the available food. That, of course, is a problem with any fish in our Bay. Says Tim Sughrue of Congressional Seafood Company, “These are not docile fish. More than a decade ago, the northern snakehead was Public Enemy No. But there might be more of them than there are of us. Larry Hogan pronounced blue catfish as served at his annual Buy Local Cookoff last month. Getting rid of a species has proved difficult, our history with carp, snakeheads and zebra muscles tells us. Shrewsbury River Dolphins Signal Cleaner Rivers, More Fish, Dolphins are important sentinels of the health of the marine environment. I like the taste of catfish. Rockfish, known as striped bass in most of their range but Maryland, is the most celebrated species of the northeast seaboard. While my friends targeted trout on opening day, you’d find me in the tailwaters of the stream trying to catch carp. NCBO also has been working with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team—a group of representatives from federal agencies, state fisheries manager, and other stakeholders—to discuss how entities around the Bay can best to combat the problem. As you’ll read in his story, blue catfish are an alien species, deposited in regional waters the way so many oddities arrive: released by humans, in this case to build a new fishery. The channel catfish usually grows to about two feet in length, but can be as long as four feet and weigh more than 50 pounds. I had Catfish on the lines all day. Here are some of the most popular fish to target in the Chesapeake: • Striped Bass • Red Drum • Spotted Sea Trout • White Perch • Summer Flounder (Fluke) Illustration courtesy the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. So far, the chief weapon we’ve arrayed against the fish is catch and eat. Still, I thought in moving to Chesapeake Country I’d made my escape from the culture and cuisine of sluggish feeders on the bottoms of Midwestern rivers and ponds locked by heavily farmed land. Meanwhile, have a bite. For the best experience, please use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Edge. I was zig-zagging across some ledges in the Mid-Bay when I saw something on my fish finder that looked like a miniature underwater forest. Blue Catfish is an invasive fish species in the Chesapeake Bay but increasing commercial harvest and consumption is one way to reduce their numbers. Regional and national tournaments are held annually on the James River, and the Potomac River is nearly a year-round hotspot for catfish angling. Smoked bluefish is — you know the word — tasty. Most Chesapeake Blue Catfish are brought on-board live which results in a very high-quality and fresh catch. Strong Support for Statewide Balloon Ban in Md. That’s about when our new neighbor and avid fisher Jack Dowd started catching assorted catfish at our local bridge, a fishing locale Bill knows well. A natural-born cook and a restaurateur, she cooked catfish a little more delicately than the heavily breaded and deep-fried standard. They are apex predators just like sharks, but they reproduce like rabbits.”. I live for catching big fish. Strong Defense. Credit: Marine Mammal Stranding Center, U.S. As more people find out how tasty blue catfish is--similar to striped bass or rockfish because it eats similar things--the number of places that sell blue catfish may grow. NOAA Fisheries Chesapeake Bay Office works with partners to manage invasive catfish. Remove the fish from milk, 1 fillet at a time, letting the excess milk drip back into the dish. In this case study, we focus on Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus which were introduced in the Chesapeake Bay region and are now considered invasive. But for a couple of weeks early in the summer rockfish season, blue catfish and snakeheads were leading Doyle’s fishing report. With the rockfish moratorium now a distant memory in another century, Bill has joined the rest of the Chesapeake fishing community in seeking (and sometimes catching) rockfish. At the November 2017 Invasive Catfish Symposium held at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rice Rivers Center, researchers from Virginia Tech, Maryland DNR, and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center presented information on blue catfish diet, finding that blue catfish feed heavily on plants, invertebrates, and small fish when they are younger, but eat mainly fish as they get older and larger. And, telemetry work by researchers at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries demonstrated that blue catfish can be highly mobile and may move seasonally. In fact, if I don’t have a legitimate shot at catching a 20- to 30-pound something every time I go out, I’d rather stay home. They’re the new fish du jour on the Chesapeke menu. It is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish between water bodies in all Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions. If you catch a catfish in Chesapeake Bay, there’s a good chance it’s an invader from the Mississippi River drainage–probably a blue catfish, though it could be a less common flathead catfish. Four pairs of light, whisker-like barbels appear around its mouth. Commercial blue catfish fishermen landed over 4.1 million pounds in 2016 up from just under 203,000 pounds in 2007. It really is that simple and this is without a doubt the the simple way to find blue catfish. That’s because unlike the farmed variety, which eat a diet of corn-and-soy feed, blue cats feed on medium-size fish like menhaden and white perch. on October 20, 2020, Stay informed of all the latest regional news around NOAA Fisheries, Juvenile Fish Communities Are in Transition on a Long Island Sound Reef. If you catch a catfish in Chesapeake Bay, there's a good chance it's an invader from the Mississippi River drainage—probably a blue catfish, though it could be a less common flathead catfish. Despite its lower reputation as an oily fish, we got fond of that toothy species. Its smooth skin lacks scales. Happier still was husband Bill Lambrecht, who brings us this week’s special report, Blue Cat Invasion. Perhaps that will happen. Are they damaging the big Chesapeake rivers by eating too many blue crabs or indigenous fish? Virginia anglers can keep 20 blue catfish per day, but only 1 per day longer than 34 inches, and 20 flathead catfish per day with no size limit. I discovered it completely by accident a few years ago. I can’t disagree. Blue catfish are often found in deep waters of rivers and reservoirs. Many consider the James River to be the best river on earth to catch blue catfish over 50 lbs. Newshound that Bill is, he went sniffing around. Until now. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, blue catfish, native to the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri River basins, were introduced into Virginia rivers in the 1970s as a sport fish and have few regional predators. We’ll let you know what comes out of it. Striped bass, bull reds, swordfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and numerous other species will be doing their best to fatten up for winter this month, giving anglers a number of possibilities to pick and choose from. She was skilled at catching, skinning and cooking a catfish. Blue catfish are here to stay. While both fish are long-lived and fast-growing, it’s the blue catfish that is the major problem. Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. Blue catfish, introduced from the Mississippi River basin into the Chesapeake watershed in the 1970s, are now abundant in all major Chesapeake rivers, and pose a significant threat to Bay’s ecosystem due to their increasing populations and capacity to consume massive quantities of food. Blue Catfish Watch Chesapeake Bay. The best baits for catching catfish in the Chesapeake Bay region often depends on habitat. The Chesapeake Bay watershed has become a home for several invasive fish species, the most prominent of which are blue and flathead catfish, and the northern snakehead. 1 on the Potomac River, an air-breathing, snaggletoothed invasive species that walked on land, dined on small reptiles and, in its way, plotted revolution on the Chesapeake Bay. Blue catfish are voracious eaters--they consume other fish, crustaceans, and even other catfish. Don’t take my word for it. Blue catfish now support exceptional trophy fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay region, particularly in the James and Potomac rivers, where catfish over 50 lb are regularly caught by anglers. To help scientists and resource managers learn more about these fish, NCBO provided more than $1 million in funding for research projects to investigate blue catfish. Advertisement We arrived in Chesapeake Country just in time for Maryland’s species-reviving five-year moratorium on catching rockfish. But it is not uncommon to find them cruising shallows along the shore either, especially at night. Update: In September 2015, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program awarded a green seafood recommendation, the highest rating possible, to Chesapeake Bay blue catfish.According to the Wide Net Project, it is the first invasive species to be assessed and rated by the program nationally. NOAA Fisheries and our partners are supporting the development of these fisheries and working to identify further solutions to control the growth of this invasive population. Together, these studies suggest that blue catfish are capable of expanding their range even further. They out-compete the native species for both habitats and food. This fact sheet aims to enhance public awareness of this invasive species as a new commercial fishery resource. So Bill spent his early Chesapeake fishing career catching bluefish — if he was lucky. (Little did I know how well that description suited our estuary.). A reconstituted Invasive Catfish Workgroup holds its first meeting August 27. Guide services in the James and Potomac rivers run expeditions that target blue catfish. It’s our local fish in the St. Louis and central Illinois region where I spent much of my early life. Newshound that Bill is, he went sniffing around. Researchers from Virginia Institute of Marine Science found that blue catfish are highly tolerant to salinity, and that tolerance appears to increase with size. Finding and catching blue catfish is as simple as locating the masses of shad. If you catch a catfish in Chesapeake Bay, there's a good chance it's an invader from the Mississippi River drainage—probably a blue catfish, though it could be a less common flathead catfish. It has a slate blue body, a silver-white belly and four pairs of black, whisker-like barbels around its mouth. So, are these prolific, omnivorous natives of the Mississippi River system, which can grow to weights over 100 lbs., a blessing or a curse here in the Chesapeake? The commercial and recreational fisheries are helping to control the population. Dennis Doyle uses that phrase in his Sporting Life column this week, and it’s acknowledged truth. Coat well with the cornmeal mixture. Credit: Ian Vorster/VA Sea Grant. nice day out. 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