Pee Dee River Catfish Survey

Catfish population surveys like this one
on the Pee Dee River are conducted across North Carolina to assess the
populations of native and invasive catfish species. Our goal is to determine
the population characteristics of all catfish species in our water bodies with
a focus on blue catfish and flathead catfish, which are invasive to most of
the state. Initial studies like this give us baseline information on invasive
catfish populations. This information can be compared to future surveys in the Pee Dee and other North Carolina rivers. Electrofishing is the most commonly used
technique to collect catfish in rivers. In addition to the Pee Dee, catfish surveys
have been conducted in recent years on the Tar, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.
Electrofishing is a very effective tool for catching catfish. It allows us to
collect catfish only while avoiding other species that are not a part of our
study. Catfish are collected from the water with a dip net and placed into a
live well on the boat to be held for processing. Length and weight are
measured for each fish along with quantity collected per hour of electrofishing. To determine age, fish ear bones are collected from a subset of the
sampled fish. Flathead catfish almost exclusively eat fish. They have been
shown to eliminate native bullhead catfish and negatively impacts sunfish
populations where they have been introduced. Blue catfish eat fish,
freshwater mussels and algae. Biologists are concerned about their impacts on
native freshwater mussels that live in the Pee Dee River and other North
Carolina rivers. This catfish study on the Pee Dee River
is ongoing. Stay tuned for further updates on this project and other
catfish surveys across North Carolina.

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