Project: Inland reservoir channel catfish assessment, stocking, and ecology
Our project seeks to identify cost-effective channel catfish stocking for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODNR-DOW) and improve our understanding of channel catfish ecology in and across Ohio reservoirs. Channel catfish have been stocked in Ohio reservoirs regularly since the 1960's, and are one of the most popular fisheries in the state. However, an assessment of the stocking program by the ODNR-DOW has not been conducted, thus there are no empirical data on the success of this stocking program. Our project aims to answer two major questions to understanding the success of the stocking program: Does stocking success differ between age-0 channel catfish and age-1 channel catfish, and how do stocked channel catfish contribute to reservoir populations once reaching adulthood.
Ohio reservoirs have historically been stocked with age-1 channel catfish. However, age-1 channel catfish are expensive to raise and there has been no study conducted in Ohio reservoirs to justify this management decision. The rationale for stocking age-1 channel catfish over age-0 channel catfish is based on aquaria and mesocosm experiments. Although these studies supported the hypothesis that smaller channel catfish are preyed upon by adult largemouth bass, the results have not been tested in situ or even anecdotally observed in nature for stocked channel catfish.
Understanding the contribution of hatchery raised channel catfish will help dictate stocking numbers for the future, identifying if a reservoir is naturally sustainable, completely supported by stocked channel catfish, or if there needs to be an increase or decrease in the number of channel catfish stocked. Due to historical stocking rates, this study provides a platform that allows us to understand life history and behavioral differences between naturally and hatchery raised channel catfish within and across reservoirs; providing more insight into non-density dependent factors that influence channel catfish populations.
Understanding how effective and efficient the channel catfish stocking program is currently will help improve the channel catfish fishery within Ohio reservoirs and give us a better understanding of channel catfish ecology in reservoirs.