We compared growth of flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris from two native populations in Alabama (Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers) and two introduced populations in Georgia (Ocmulgee and Satilla rivers). We also compared mortality rates and potential outcomes of various management regimes (minimum length limits [MLLs]) among the populations. Total length-log10(age) regression slopes for introduced fish were higher than those for native fish, and von Bertalanffy growth coefficients (K) were greater for introduced fish (Ocmulgee: 0.195; Satilla: 0.201) than for native individuals (Coosa: 0.057; Tallapoosa: 0.059). Therefore, introduced flathead catfish grew more rapidly than those in their native range. Mortality (instantaneous mortality rate, Z) was higher in the Satilla River population (Z = -0.602) than in the Ocmulgee River (Z = -0.227) and Coosa River (Z = -0.156) populations. However, fish in the Satilla River population had been introduced for only 10 years and presumably did not reach their theoretical maximum age, potentially biasing the mortality estimate for that population. Simulation of management regimes in Fishery Analyses and Simulation Tools software predicted that maximum biomass of flathead catfish in the Ocmulgee (1,668 kg) and Satilla (1,137 kg) rivers was substantially larger than that in the Coosa (873 kg) and Tallapoosa (768 kg) populations. However, increased exploitation rates in the Ocmulgee and Satilla River populations resulted in dramatic declines in overall biomass, especially at lower MLLs (254 and 356 mm, respectively). Therefore, in systems where introduced flathead catfish represent an important recreational fishery but have dramatically reduced the abundance of native fishes through predation, minimal protection is recommended. We contend that rapid growth of introduced flathead catfish has major implications for their management and the conservation of native fishes. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2006.
Additional publication details
Comparison of native and introduced flathead catfish populations in Alabama and Georgia: Growth, mortality, and management