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Study Launched to Track Trophy Ohio River Catfish

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Game and Fish Mag

Trophy-sized Ohio River catfish are abundant in the lakes, rivers, and reservoirs of Ohio, and now they will be tracked. 

Catfishing has been increasing in popularity with anglers across the country for a while now, but little is known about the trophy-sized fish that are available to anglers who fish the Ohio River. A new 5-year study launched by the state of Ohio seeks to help biologists learns more about the movement patterns of Ohio River catfish that measure in excess of 25 inches.

The study’s main focus will be to learn how often the catfish move between different river pools and how far the fish travel among the main river and its tributaries. Study data will be collected through the use of tags, angler reports and specialized telemetry data. Studying the movement patterns of Ohio River catfish will offer several challenges to the researchers mostly due to the size and complexity of the river system.

The Ohio River stretches almost 1,000 miles between its starting point in Pittsburgh and its confluence with the Mississippi River in Illinois. It has 19 different lock systems and dams and runs along the borders of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. This presents unique challenges because of varying regulations and management laws amongst the different states.

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Fisheries’ biologists will externally tag large Ohio River blue and flathead catfish. Each tag will have a toll-free number for anglers to call and report their catches to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Any angler who catches and reports a tagged fish during the study will earn a reward between $10 and $100 and be entered to win a $1000 grand prize at the conclusion of the study.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife:

A subset of these tagged fish will also be implanted with a transmitter that emits an ultrasonic signal that can only be detected by specialized equipment, called hydrophones. Hydrophones are underwater microphones specifically designed to ‘listen’ for these tags. Each time a hydrophone detects a signal from one of these transmitters, it records the date, time, and the identification number of the tag. So each time a fish with a transmitter swims by one of these hydrophones, we will know when that particular fish was in the vicinity of that hydrophone. Biologists will use the detection history for each fish to track the movements of these large catfish over the next few years.

When the same fish is detected several times by one specific hydrophone, biologists will know that the fish has stayed in the same area for an extended time. However, when a fish is detected by several different hydrophones, researchers will be able to track the movements of any tagged Ohio River catfish.

The information gathered during this study will help paint a clear picture of catch rates and movements of Ohio River catfish while also helping biologists to develop new management techniques to make sure that future generations of Ohio anglers will have the opportunity to land a trophy-sized Ohio River catfish.

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Study Launched to Track Trophy Ohio River Catfish