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

Evaluation of the Flathead Catfish Population and Fishery on Lake Carl Blackwell, Oklahoma, with Emphasis on the Effects of Noodling

Dana L. Winkelman

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874257.ch18

Abstract.—I conducted a 3-year study at Lake Carl Blackwell, Oklahoma to estimate effects of various fishing gears on the flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris population. Managers were particularly interested in the effect of handfishing or noodling on this population. I used a phone survey to assess angler effort and electrofishing and gill nets to calculate standard population metrics to assess composition of the current population. Survey data indicated that fishing effort and harvest were highest for trotlines and juglines and lowest for noodling. Size distribution of fish harvested by noodlers was not different from sizes that were available in the fishery and was similar to those fish harvested with other gears. Flathead catfish sampled in Lake Carl Blackwell ranged in size from 38 to 1,220 mm total length, and 77% of the population was less than 508 mm (minimum legal size). Estimated total annual mortality was about 11%. Proportional size distribution (PSD) of flathead catfish for Lake Carl Blackwell indicates that about 70% of legal-sized flathead catfish were over the preferred size of 710 mm. Overall, the Lake Carl Blackwell flathead catfish population appeared healthy. There were a wide range of sizes and ages in the population, and PSD indicated a well-balanced population with many preferred and memorable-sized fish. Due to its rarity, noodling is probably not adversely influencing the population. Additionally, noodling at Lake Carl Blackwell does not appear to be as size-selective as previously thought.