Development of a Blue Catfish Management Program in Oklahoma: A Case History
Kurt E. Kuklinski and Chas P. Patterson
Abstract.—Management of blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus populations is an emerging focus for state fish and wildlife agencies as catfish anglers have shown a growing interest in trophy fishing. As blue catfish sampling methodology has improved, management of blue catfish fisheries has become a greater priority in some states. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has collected abundance, age and growth, and mortality data on blue catfish from 14 reservoirs statewide. Electrofishing surveys indicated that blue catfish populations are dominated by slow-growing fish less than 400 mm total length (TL) and average 24% total annual mortality. In addition, relative abundance of ≥762 mm TL blue catfish in the angler creel (8%) greatly exceeds that in population samples (<1%). In 2009, ODWC recommended a statewide regulation limiting harvest of blue catfish greater than 762 mm TL to one fish per day while maintaining the daily limit of 15 fish per day. The proposal met with moderate opposition through the regular regulation review process but was approved by the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission. Legislative opposition to the proposal subsequently developed, and a resolution was introduced to rescind the regulation but ultimately failed. A regulation restricting blue catfish harvest to 15 fish daily with only 1 fish ≥762 mm TL went into effect on January 1, 2010.