Efficiency of Baited Hoop Nets for Sampling Catfish in Southeastern U.S. Small Impoundments
Benjamin C. Wallace, Daniel M. Weaver, and Thomas J. Kwak
Abstract.—Many U.S. natural resource agencies stock catfish (Ictaluridae) into small impoundments to provide recreational fishing opportunities. However, effective standardized methods for sampling catfish in small impoundments have not been developed for wide application, particularly in the southeastern United States. We evaluated the efficiency of three bait treatments (i.e., soybean cake, sunflower cake, and no bait) of tandem hoop nets in two North Carolina small impoundments during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 in a factorial experimental design. The impoundments were stocked with catchable-size channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus at contrastingly low (5.5 fish/ha) and high (90.0 fish/ha) rates prior to our sampling. Nets baited with soybean cake consistently sampled more channel catfish than any other treatment. Channel catfish catch ranged as high as 3,251 fish per net series during the fall in nets baited with soybean cake in the intensively stocked impoundment and was up to 8.5 and 15.3 times higher during the fall than in the spring in each impoundment. Nets baited with soybean cake sampled significantly (12 and 24 times) more channel catfish than those with no bait in the two impoundments. These trends did not occur among other catfish species. Nonictalurid fish and turtle catch was higher during spring compared to that of fall, corresponding with low channel catfish catches. Our results indicate that tandem hoop nets baited with soybean cake during the fall is a more efficient method for sampling channel catfish compared to nets baited with sunflower cake or no bait in spring or fall. Our findings validate this technique for application in southeastern U.S. small impoundments to assess catfish abundance to guide management and evaluate the success of catfish stocking programs.