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

Blue Catfish Movement in the Upper Mississippi River

Sara J. Tripp, Michael J. Hill, Heather A. Calkins, Ronald C. Brooks, David P. Herzog, David E. Ostendorf, Robert A. Hrabik, and James E. Garvey


Abstract.—Blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus are a commercially and recreationally important species throughout their range, in which many states have differing management strategies. Before management strategies can be implemented to achieve specific goals, understanding seasonal habitat use and movement patterns is necessary to determine the appropriate spatial scale for management. Therefore, we determined the extent and timing of blue catfish movement in the upper Mississippi River (UMR). During fall 2006 through spring 2010, 92 blue catfish (ranging from 490 to 1,025 mm total length) were captured, implanted with ultrasonic transmitters, and released in the Lock and Dam 26 area. Movement was quantified in the UMR from below Lock and Dam 19 down to the Ohio River confluence, including major tributaries, by examining the average (kilometers moved between detections/number of detections) and maximum (total number of kilometers moved across all detections) movements for each fish throughout the life of each transmitter that was detected multiple times by the stationary receiver array. Of the 82% of fish detected by stationary receivers, movement occurred from Mississippi River kilometer 459 to the Ohio River confluence, with individual blue catfish movement ranging from a maximum of 689 river kilometers to a minimum of 1.3 river kilometers. Fifteen (19%) of the fish tagged in the UMR moved into one or more of major tributaries (the Missouri, Illinois, Meramec, and Ohio rivers) while 31 (41%) of the fish stayed in the Alton area year-round and 30 (40%) blue catfish moved down into the open river to possibly overwinter. When investigating total movement by tagged blue catfish each month, the greatest movement occurred during periods of changing water temperatures and high discharge. This was further supported by the Akaike’s information criterion, with the interactive model of temperature and discharge resulting in the most support for triggering blue catfish movement. Understanding these movement patterns and seasonal habitat requirements for spawning, foraging, or refuge of riverine fish is essential for effective management of these highly mobile fish.