By Margi Whitmore/DWR
Photos by Clint Morgeson/DWR
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) fisheries staff conducted annual blue catfish sampling over the past two weeks in the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Rappahannock rivers.
Biologists used low-frequency electrofishing to temporarily immobilize catfish in order to collect length and weight data and track the population. (Wondering what electrofishing is? Check out Not Too Shocking: Your Electrofishing Questions Answered.) Larger size classes and higher numbers of blue catfish were consistently found in deep holes off the main channel and around outside river bends. Areas near drop-offs and with structure, like tree stumps or submerged trees, also held more and larger fish.
In the Rappahannock River, larger catfish were found in the lower salinity reaches upstream and just downstream of Port Royal. Cat Point Creek, a tributary just upstream of Tappahannock, had good numbers of fish and great size distributions in the vicinity of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The largest fish collected and released by DWR weighed in at 51 pounds from the upstream reaches of the Rappahannock River.
The Pamunkey River also produced better size distributions and higher numbers of fish further upstream, in the vicinity of the railroad bridge and above. The Rappahannock, Mattaponi, and Pamunkey rivers all produced plenty of good eating-size blue catfish in the 3- to 5-pound range, but the largest fish sampled this year came out of deep holes on the outside bends of the upstream Rappahannock River. The James, Chickahominy, and Piankatank rivers will be sampled next year.
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