Gear-specific population demographics of channel catfish in a large midwestern river


Various gear types have been used to sample populations of channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus in lotic systems. However, these gears produce different population characteristics (i.e., recruitment, growth, and mortality). We compared the population demographics of channel catfish in the Wabash River, Indiana, sampled with baited 25- and 32-mm-bar mesh hoop nets and three-phase alternating current (AC) electrofishing. Based on catch per unit effort, the relative abundance of channel catfish sampled with 32-mm hoop nets was lower than that of fish sampled with 25-mm hoop nets and AC electrofishing. Each gear type also resulted in a different length frequency, mean length increasing progressively in sampling with 25-mm hoop nets, 32-mm hoop nets, and AC electrofishing. Similarly, age-frequency distributions differed among gears. The 25-mm hoop nets biased the age structure toward younger individuals (mean age = 2.5), whereas both 32-mm hoop nets (mean age = 4.0) and AC electrofishing (mean age = 5.8) included older fish. Catch-curve analysis generated different mortality rates for the three gear types, the mortality rate being highest (50%) in fish sampled with 25-mm hoop nets. Gear-specific size and age structures led to differences in von Bertalanffy statistics among the 25-mm hoop nets and AC electrofishing, while the results for 32-mm hoop nets were uninterpretable. Because the different gears led to conflicting parameter estimates, management practices based on sampling with single gears may be contradictory. Given the differences in gear selectivity, biologists need to approach management cautiously until calibration to the true size and age structure is conducted.

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North American Journal of Fisheries Management