I like to give a little update now and then about some of the fisheries management activities going on around Nebraska. Your pointy-headed fisheries biologists, researchers, and fish production workers never rest.
In late summer we do a bunch of our Channel Catfish stocking around the state. Channel Catfish are very popular with Nebraska anglers and can be found in waters throughout the state. Those Catfish have no problem reproducing in a variety of waters, but there are a lot of predators that love to eat small Catfish. That has always surprised me a bit, small Channel Cats and Bullheads have needle-sharp spines which are sure to stick you in a finger or palm of your hand. One would think that those prickly, little Catfish would be undesirable prey, but on the contrary, all predator fish seem to love to snack on them. So, in some waters, especially relatively small standing bodies of water, pits, ponds, small- to medium-size reservoirs, we maintain Channel Catfish populations by stocking. It is not that the Channel Cats cannot reproduce, they do, but that the young Catfish pretty much all get eaten. The Catfish we stock in those waters in late summer are generally larger than 9 inches long. Those larger “advanced fingerlings” are big enough to avoid most predation.
Nebraska is a “northern” state and it takes some time for Catfish to grow in our waters. As a matter of fact, Catfish are some of the slowest-growing fish in Nebraska. For that reason, to produce Catfish in our State Fish Hatcheries, it is easiest for us to obtain small, very young Catfish from states to the south of us, and then grow them to stocking size in our hatcheries. Channel Catfish readily take to artificial feed and are fed until they are the 9-10-inch fish that we stock in late summer every year. Those advanced fingerling Catfish have been raised in hatchery ponds for two growing seasons before they are stocked. Yep, that means those 9-10-inch fish are over a year old when they are stocked, and considerable amounts of feed and hatchery resources have gone into producing them.
In the past couple of weeks, over 31,000, 9-10-inch Channel Cats have been stocked literally from one end of Nebraska to the other, from Oliver Reservoir to Weeping Water. Fifty-eight waterbodies have received those fish. I am not going to list them all, the fish we just stocked were only 9-10-inches long and need a couple years more growing before they are caught. If you have a relatively small body of water close by or one that is your favorite Catfish fishing spot, it probably got stocked. Check the fish stocking database for more details. If you want to know which waters should be best for Catfish fishing right now, do not forget the 2016 Fishing Forecast or just GO FISH!