N.C. did you see this?

Discussion in 'LOCAL NORTH CAROLINA TALK' started by zappaf19, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. zappaf19

    zappaf19 New Member

    Messages:
    1,574
    State:
    Monticello,IN
    Flathead catfish poses risk
    to native N.C. fish species



    Anglers love the flathead catfish because it's big, it puts up a good fight and it tastes good.

    But the flathead has a dark side: It needs to eat living fish, and lots of them. This attribute has fisheries and wildlife officials worried about some native North Carolina fish species, including the redbreast sunfish, white catfish and bullhead species, and small madtoms, which have all seen a population decline in areas where the flathead has been introduced. This trend is also causing concern in other states along the Eastern Seaboard, all the way from Florida to Pennsylvania.

    Dr. Tom Kwak, associate professor of zoology at North Carolina State University and unit leader of the N.C. Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, is the principal investigator of one of the first extensive studies of the flathead catfish. The N.C. Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is a partnership of the U.S. Geological Survey, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, NC State University and the Wildlife Management Institute.

    Flathead catfish are not native to North Carolina, Kwak says; the species was introduced in the state in the mid-1960s as a sport fish. Little did N.C. officials know back then that the flathead, which seems to get along well with other fish in its natural habitat - the Mississippi River and its tributaries from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico - would put its carnivorous traits to use in harmful ways.

    "The flathead catfish is unique among American catfish in that it is an obligate carnivore - it must eat living fishes or other living invertebrates like crabs or crayfish," Kwak said. "It won't eat plants or other dead material, and you can't catch it with popular catfish baits like cheese or chicken liver."

    And it needs a lot of live fish to grow, Kwak says. To gain one pound, flatheads must eat about 10 pounds of live food. That adds up to a feeding frenzy when you consider that the largest flathead captured in North Carolina tipped the scales at 69 pounds, and the world record is a 127-pounder caught in Kansas.

    Kwak's cooperative unit was called in when biologists from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission noted that the numbers of native N.C. species began showing declines in areas inhabited by flathead catfish. His team joined Wildlife Commission biologists to determine if there is merit to the theory that the presence of flatheads leads to reduced numbers of native species like redbreast sunfish and other types of catfish, and also to discover how these fish behave and what types of habitats they use in North Carolina rivers.

    To learn more about the flathead catfish, the team - which includes NC State zoology faculty Dr. James Rice, Dr. Richard Noble, Dr. Joseph Hightower, doctoral student Bill Pine, research associate Scott Waters and a number of NC State graduate and undergraduate students - studies flathead populations in three eastern North Carolina rivers: the Northeast Cape Fear River near Burgaw, Contentnea Creek near Kinston and the Lumber River outside Lumberton.

    The team's focus is on three objectives: to ascertain approximate numbers of flathead catfish, along with other population characteristics like size and growth rates; to gauge the behavior and migration patterns of flatheads; and to determine the predator-prey relationship between flatheads and other fish.

    To accomplish these goals, the researchers collect flathead catfish by electrofishing - that is, generating low frequency electrical current in the water and then catching the stunned flatheads as they float to the surface. Researchers then measure and weigh each fish; mark all fish with small computer chips called passive integrated transponder tags that each have a unique number; and pump the stomachs of the fish to determine the fish's diet. A select number of flatheads - at least 12 in each of the three areas studied - also have a radio transmitter implanted so researchers can track movement and behavior.

    Some of the research findings have been surprising, Kwak and Pine say. It appears that the flathead catfish is thriving, but acting differently, in its non-native North Carolina environment.

    Flathead densities in the Neuse River system are greater than those reported in its native Mississippi River basin, the researchers say. Moreover, many flatheads migrate further than previously expected.

    "Based on one study in tributaries of the Mississippi River, it was assumed that in the flatheads stayed within one mile of where they were found," Kwak says. "In North Carolina, many are moving a lot, sometimes up to 30 and 40 miles of where they were originally found. This has serious management implications because flatheads are not just isolated in small areas, but moving throughout an entire river basin."

    The study also shows that flatheads are frequently found in deep holes in the river, especially habitats with cover, such as log piles or other woody debris.

    Stomach content analysis shows that flatheads consume a wide variety of prey items, including sunfish, crayfish, and occasionally shrimp and small crabs, Pine says.

    The flathead was recently spotted in the upper Cape Fear River, raising fears that a rare, endangered fish native to that river, the cape fear shiner, could be in trouble. Kwak and other NC State researchers and students are currently conducting habitat studies on the cape fear shiner, and may eventually examine the relationship between this small minnow and the flathead.

    Kwak has two suggestions to control the flathead population in the state. "Anglers should definitely practice catch-and-keep when they get a flathead catfish," he said. "And while it's illegal to move fish around from one river to another, someone moved the flathead into the upper Cape Fear. You're not doing anyone any favors by introducing the flathead into new waters; it's destructive to our native fisheries, and it's irresponsible."

    The information gained in this research will help state biologists work together with the public to manage fisheries to protect the state's native natural heritage. The final report on the impacts of flathead catfish in North Carolina will be released next summer.
     
  2. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    Well, ther isn't a whole lot to say other than, I dont float sections of the Neuse for Robins on Sunday afternoons anymore.
    It's no secret the flathead is a predator and at the top of the food chain on most of the Cape Fear and Neuse rivers.
    There have been studies and continue to be studies done with just about every species of fish in the rivers and the Flathead.
    The North Carolina Wildlife Commission is no slouch. If they were a slouch 4 or 5 other southern states wouldn't have adopted some of the NCWC programs especially in deer and big game management.
    It is no secret that it was the Flathead that decimated the fishing on the Lumber river to the point there wasnt anything to catch but a Flathead but it is recovering. The Lumber river also had the best Robin fishing in the state that I had seen.

    I dont believe that the NCWC is trying to erradicate the Flathead. Erradication would be impossible.
    I think they are more interested in controlling it.
    I'm not going to sit here and deny that the flathead has affected native species on our rivers. I would be lying.
    I do believe there is a balance to be maintained between the flathead and native species while compromising as a sportfisher will be necessary to maintain that balance.

    I do not believe every flathead should be marked for death but I feel the state should do more in its end of a compromise by telling the sportfisher or pleasure fishermen what exactly should be kept or thrown back to preserve a balance. Should the large catfish be kept or thrown back? What would be best for the waters I fish as a whole? Those are my questions. I neither want to destroy a river nor do I want to destroy the sport of flathead fishing.

    Bottom line I dont think the information from all the studies done by universities and the state has ever been compiled into one room with one team of biologists to use as a tool in making some decisions good or bad for our rivers.
     

  3. BIGBASS3638

    BIGBASS3638 New Member

    Messages:
    33
    If Their Was A Bad Problem With The Number Of Fish That Flatheads Eat We Need To Eat Mor Fltheads.

    Am I Right???
     
  4. s_man

    s_man New Member

    Messages:
    3,012
    State:
    south east ohio
    If you ask me I think everything is cyclical. When the flats were first introduced the factors were prime, they had plenty of extra food and no body fishing them so the population exploded, there were more fry making it to adulthood than on their native waters. With time thier numbers will stabilize, they can't have more flatheads if there's not enough food to go around. The post above said one of the rivers was returnig to normal. Thats how it works. Just like with say turkeys and squirrels, get a couple of years with warm springs and lots of nuts and other forage the population can double, hunting is great.Then a couple cold wet springs you can't buy a shot at one.
    It will just take longer to even out in the river I guess, If there was data from 20 years ago on survival ratios of flathead fry in comparison with today I'd bet they are hugely different now. There are lots of adults from past years but not as many hatchlings are making it that far now.
     
  5. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    The problem is. A river shouldnt have to go from one extreme to the other.
    Already you have a river that will never fully recover because the flethead was introduced.

    The state just needs to get off the pot and publicly announce what they want to do and how to do it.
    If they want 100,000 pounds of flatheads taken from lock 3 to lock 1 each year, thats fine, but lets establish a program for it and a decent way to track it.

    They have never had a hard time in the commercial fishing side and striper catches based on poundage.

    First things first, We got to get rid of this idiot Mike Easley and company before anything along the lines of what I'm talking could be done.
    The state's money is being misapropriated and we couldnt buy a piece of bubble gum without raiding the highway fund and upping the gas tax.
     
  6. peewee williams

    peewee williams New Member

    Messages:
    3,111
    State:
    Pembroke,Georgia
    Georgia DNR recomended taking of all legaly caught Flatheads out of Savannah river.Starlings,English Sparrows,Red Fox,Rainbow Trout,fresh & saltwater spawning Striped Bass,American Shad,Blue crab,African Bees,Kudzu,and lets not forget people.All introduced for the best of reasons,by people who decided that they know what is best for everyone.We can wonder,think,and talk about it,BUT TIME will be the only answer.Each of the above displaced something.The future is allways the one to reap or pay.People will allways find a GOOD reason to do what they WANT.I am guilty.I would gladly export ALL of our Fire Ants,Skeeters,and sand gnats,if posable.peewee-williams
     
  7. dwreel

    dwreel New Member

    Messages:
    554
    State:
    Southern Pines, NC
    You got it right ,Mark. Our reps in Raleigh don't have a clue. Mike E. has been put down so many times and he is still clueless. I have never understood why our reps in Raleigh are so reluctent to listen to the people directly involved in their decisions. Too much "Good ol boy" favors going on me thinks.
    During the energy crunch in the 70"s they told use to conserve, which we did, with less gas being sold gas tax revenues droped. So what did OUR reps in Raleigh do ? They raised the state tax on gas. What a crock.
    Mike E. needs to send some of his staff out into the field and get our take on these problems. We sure as h--- know more about it than he does.
     
  8. MUDHOLE KID

    MUDHOLE KID New Member

    Messages:
    1,178
    State:
    Anderson,S.C.
    Well Mark I'll have to agree with you on this.I've been dealing with some issues in S.C. for a few years now,and to be honest with you the results sound the same.They don't know how to make a common sense decission .They act like it's thier on little word and no one else is in it.I personally think when decissions like this are made ,someone outside the doors should be able to play a part in the outcome.Why can't the fisherman ever have a role in thier little play.They come in there and say the flatheads are awful fish killing pretators and must be removed before it's to late.Why can't they say.Keep 2 per outting,keep 1 over 32" ,keep 6 per outting,something to regulate the species.It blows my little peabrain mind in how they make these gun point decissions.How much study is really done before that pull the trigger.I know they say they have done extensive research on it ,but really how much time is done just goofing off making 8 hours and going home.Do they have a real desire to help the system.
     
  9. C_wernett

    C_wernett New Member

    Messages:
    693
    State:
    North Carolina
    Well all is good with them collecting data, and so and so...but I heard differently as to how the flathead got introduced into the Cape Fear at least...does anyone else know this story? I've only heard it by way of mouth, but am going to look more into it now and see if its true....that's all I'll say for now untill I've got more data to back me up.
     
  10. Jroc777

    Jroc777 Member

    Messages:
    191
    State:
    Evansville, IN
    I hope the flatheads eat all the other fish. Then I can to to NC and catch as many big flatties as I want. They wouldn't be complaining if largemouth bass were eating the other fish. There are plenty of other species of fish that eat live prey but they are considered "sport fish" so its ok. Personally I would rather catch a 60lb. flatty than a 15lb. bass anyday. Also, with all of the river and stream systems who is to say that they wouldn't have ended up in these areas anyway?
     
  11. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    That wasn't a very thoughtful comment to say about a North Carolina river that I have been fishing in all my life especially from someone living in Indiana who doesn't fish the Cape Fear on a regular basis if at all.
    It aint all about a catfish. You are talking about a major ecosystem in the state of North Carolina.
    The problem here is that I like many other fishermen are diversified.
    We may flathead fish this weekend and next weekend may find us on the outerbanks drum fishing or floating the river catching those big robin and shad. Sometime before the month is out you might even find me pitching a jig and pig around a stump bed after a chub.
    Being diversified will make you a better fisherman. A river in balance is going to be a healthy river.
     
  12. MUDHOLE KID

    MUDHOLE KID New Member

    Messages:
    1,178
    State:
    Anderson,S.C.
    O' do we have alot to learn Grasshopper.Wisdom will come with age young one.
     
  13. Jroc777

    Jroc777 Member

    Messages:
    191
    State:
    Evansville, IN
    Hey, I wasn't trying to ruffle anyone's feathers. It was more of a joke than anything. Obviously you need a healthy population of all types of fish in order to have a great fishery. Lighten up guys and sorry if I offended anyone.
     
  14. nccatfish1

    nccatfish1 New Member

    Messages:
    13
    State:
    North Carolina
    does it matter how big the bream or live baitfish is to catch a flathead? what size hooks should i use and what kind of rig set up should i use? any help would be great thanks
     
  15. Kittyhunter

    Kittyhunter New Member

    Messages:
    291
    State:
    Princeton, NC
    nccat, the size you use is up to you. I generally use bream in the 4-6 inch range on 6/0 circle hooks hooked through the back about midway down the body just below the dorsal fin, but close enough to the spine to get into some bone. This allows them to swim around and they stay on good when you cast. You will get different opinions and theories on bait size and hook size. This works for me. My theory on size is this, if you fish with large bait (6-8 inches or bigger) you will generally catch bigger fish since smaller fish may not jump on a big ole bream, but you may also catch fewer fish due to the same reason. However, big fish eat smaller bait fish too. So, if you fish with smaller bait, not only do you have a better chance of catching some nice fish, but you can also still catch big fish. A 4-6 inch bream is plenty big enough to lure in a 50+ lb flathead and also small enough to catch a 10-20 lb'er too. The 35 lb'er in my picture was actually caught with just the head off of a 6 inch bream. Of course, a small flathead is cocky enough, and capable of eating large bream. I would rather enjoy catching several fish in the 10-30 lb. range with the good chance of a big one, than to sit all night waiting for the monster and never get it. Like they say, if you wait for the beauty queen, you might miss the whole parade.
     
  16. Dragger

    Dragger New Member

    Messages:
    538
    State:
    North Carolina
    Hey Mark, You nailed that one on the head brother......steve.