Catfish have rarely been transferred to ponds throughout Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7, despite their success in other ponds programs across the country.
However, the Region 7 Fisheries staff had the desire to experiment with channel catfish in some of the local ponds, if specific criteria were met:
– An abundance of channel catfish were available from a source that was tested and clear of any Aquatic Invasive Species and pathogens
– The receiving waterbody had an over-abundance of prey species that often leads to their stunting of growth.
FWP had this scenario this past fall. Water and fish tissue samples were taken from the Yellowstone River immediately downstream of Intake Dam near Glendive. Both the fish and water samples came back negative for AIS and pathogens. Annual summer sampling at Gartside Reservoir near Sidney has shown an obvious over-abundance of both bluegill and yellow perch, and the size structure of both species is heavily skewed toward small fish.
Given those conditions, in October FWP completed a wild fish transfer of 93 channel catfish from Intake to Gartside Reservoir. The average fish size was 21 inches and four pounds, but fish ranged in size up to 30 inches and 12 pounds.
The goal of the transfer was twofold: first, the catfish would provide additional predation on the bluegill and yellow perch with hopes of decreasing their abundance and increasing their average size; second, the catfish would provide additional opportunity for anglers and may potentially reach trophy sizes.
All of the catfish released had an external, green tag inserted just below their dorsal fin. That tag has a unique number on one side (FWPR7 POND-XXXX) and the phone number for the regional office on the other side. Any anglers who capture one of these fish from Gartside are encouraged to call the office or email Biologist Mat Rugg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and provide a brief description of the encounter including date, length, weight, tag number, and whether the fish was harvested or released. Tag return data will be used to determine catfish growth, survival and exploitation.