Conservation, Ecology, and Management of Catfish: The Second International Symposium

Catfish Population Characteristics in Tailwater and Reservoir Habitats of the Coosa River, Alabama

Jeffrey C. Jolley and Elise R. Irwin

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874257.ch13

Abstract.—Catfish are popular recreational fish in Alabama, and management interest has been rising. We hypothesized that tailwater habitat more closely resembling lotic conditions would provide more suitable conditions for catfishes compared to impounded habitats. We examined and compared population characteristics, including abundance, age and size structure, growth, and survival of blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus, channel catfish I. punctatus, and flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris between tailwater and reservoir habitats in a section of the Coosa River in 2001–2002. Coosa River system tailwater habitats appear to generally provide higher quality environments for abundance and growth of catfishes than reservoir habitat, although results were often not consistent among species. We found no differences for many comparisons of stock descriptors between tailwater and reservoir habitat. We found that blue catfish were larger (48 mm total length larger) and flathead catfish electrofishing catch rates were higher (13 fish/h greater) in tailwater areas. Catfish populations in the Coosa River were characterized by slow growth and high longevity, findings in accord with other recent otolith-based age analyses from populations in the Southeast. All species had moderate to high annual survival (57–88%), likely indicating light exploitation levels. Catfish populations in this section of the Coosa River appear robust, and the tendency for these dam tailwaters to have higher quality catfish populations may warrant management actions to enhance/sustain these fisheries.