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

Intra-Annual Movement and Migration of Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish in the Lower Missouri River and Tributaries

Daniel L. Garrett and Charles F. Rabeni

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874257.ch41

Abstract.—Flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris and blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus thrive in large rivers and constitute large sport fisheries. Defining a spatial scale for new management strategies has become increasingly important due to rapid expansion of the sport fishery. To investigate life history characteristics, migratory pathways, and space use, we used telemetry to monitor the movement behavior of flathead catfish and blue catfish during two complete annual cycles. Individuals were sampled from a 97-km reach of the lower Missouri River and surgically implanted with transmitters during April 2006 (N = 77) and again in April and July of 2007 (N = 80). Acoustic tracking by boat and radio tracking by helicopter were used on the Missouri, Lamine, Chariton, Little Chariton, and Grand rivers during 2006–2008. The proportion of individuals that used a tributary during the putative spawning period (May 15–July 15) increased from 10% (8 of 77) in 2006 to 18% (14 of 80) in 2007. Flood conditions in May 2007 may have contributed to this increase. Between April 2006 and May 2007, the majority of flathead (51%) and blue catfishes (55%) moved less than 100 river kilometers from where they were tagged. The maximum linear range during 2006–2007 was 347.6 river kilometers for blue catfish and 751.9 river kilometers for flathead catfish. Seasonal structure to annual movements was evident with periods of both restricted movement (December–March; July–September) and migratory behavior (March–June; October–December). The variability in observed behaviors provides a substantial basis for managers to identify and protect distant habitats that are used by adult catfish for spawning, feeding and growth, and overwintering.