In April 2014, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) launched a statewide campaign to educate citizens about invasive blue and flathead Catfish, their impact on native species, and what anglers can do to help.
To kick off the effort, partners and stakeholders joined DNR staff for a catfish cooking demonstration and tasting at Smallwood State Park on the Potomac River.
“Increasing in population and range, both blue and flathead catfish are now abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, threatening the natural food chain of our ecosystem and causing concern among fishery managers,” said DNR Deputy Secretary Frank Dawson.
DNR developed the outreach program to help anglers identify and catch these invasive species, understand the importance of regulations that prohibit their transport, and encourage anglers to keep the fish instead of releasing them alive.
The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have both formerly recognized the need to address the threat to native species by working to reduce invasive catfish densities and range.
In addition to establishing more than 150 educational/cautionary signs at water access points and kiosks statewide, the State is escalating efforts to market Maryland’s fledgling commercial catfish fishery.
Catfish dishes from Chef Michael Stavlas of Hellas restaurant in Millersville and Executive Chef James Barrett of Azure in Annapolis provided attendees with a taste of this delicious invader.
Blue and Flathead Catfish were introduced into the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem in the 1970s and 80s. Flatheads found ideal conditions in the Occoquan River, a small tidal Potomac tributary in Virginia and were recently identified in the non-tidal Potomac River near Williamsport. Flatheads have also become established in the Lower Susquehanna River.
Blue catfish are now in most of the major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay as a result of their natural range expansion and possibly through illegal introductions by fishermen seeking to establish fisheries in other waters.
There is no limit to the number of catfish an angler can catch and keep. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) advises limiting monthly Blue Catfish consumption for adults to: four fish under 15 inches; two between 15 and 24 inches; or one between 24 and 30 inches; and none over 30 inches due to the possibility of chemical accumulation in these species. The recommended monthly limit for children is: four under 15 inches; one from 15 to 24 inches; one fish every other month from 24 to 30 inches; and none over 30 inches.
For more information on invasive species in Maryland, visit dnr.maryland.gov/invasives.
source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources