Juvenile Channel Catfish Habitat Use in the Middle Mississippi River
Quinton E. Phelps, Sara J. Tripp, James E. Garvey, David P. Herzog, Robert A. Hrabik, David E. Ostendorf, Joseph W. Ridings, and Jason W. Crites
Abstract.—Channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus are a major recreational and commercially important large river species. However, anthropogenic activities have heavily degraded the majority of riverine catfish habitats. To maintain catfish populations, an understanding of channel catfish early-life habitat use is necessary. We quantified habitat use of juvenile channel catfish in the middle Mississippi River from 2004 through 2007 by trawling in main channel, channel border, island, and artificial structure habitat (i.e., river training structures or wing dikes) features throughout the sampling reach (N = 878 trawls; N = 538 juvenile channel catfish). Channel catfish occurred most frequently in island and off-channel habitats. Few juvenile channel catfish were trawled in the main channel. All macrohabitat features were used by a broad size range of juvenile channel catfish, with the exception of the main channel, where only larger juvenile channel catfish were captured. Within each habitat, juvenile channel catfish catch rates were highest in sand substrate, low velocity, and shallow depths. Channel catfish in the middle Mississippi River use a variety of habitats during early life. Maintaining existing habitats, creating habitats with these attributes, and coupling this with proper management will foster sustainability of the channel catfish population at current commercial and recreational fishing levels in the middle Mississippi River.