We, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, will stock somewhere around 290,000 channel catfish into nearly 200 different waterbodies in the state this year. Most of those fish will be around 9-10 inches long when stocked. Included in the waters that will be stocked with those 290-some thousand channel cats will be many of the state’s relatively small, park, urban, and community lakes and ponds. The fish stocked in those waters will be relatively easy to catch and located near a lot of beginning anglers, especially kids.
Channel catfish are a warm-water species and therefore one of the slowest-growing fish in Nebraska waters. It takes two growing seasons to raise channel catfish in Nebraska’s state fish hatcheries to the 9-10-inch stocking size. Raising those fish to 9-10 inches is necessary because predator fish like largemouth bass really love to munch on small catfish and bullheads. As a result, there is a significant commitment of time, pond space, and fish food to raise the channel catfish that are stocked in Nebraska waters.
On occasion, in a fish hatchery, there are some fish produced that are a lot larger than usual. For example, in normal operations on our state fish hatcheries, there are some fish that escape their rearing ponds and find themselves living in some of the hatchery settling ponds. After a few years, some of those catfish in the settling ponds can be more like 9-10 pounds instead of 9-10 inches.
If you are still reading, you may be wondering why I am weaving this story. Well, this is why. . . . Very soon some of those “bonus” fish, much-larger-than-average stocked channel catfish, some of the settling pond escapees, will be taking a ride in a stocking truck to a body of water near some of you. Yes, I am saying that a few channel catfish that average around 4 pounds a piece, with some much larger than that, will be stocked in a handful of waters later this week!
Now, we have only a little more than a hundred of those large “bonus” cats to stock; we simply cannot stock them in a bunch of waters all around the state. I know most of you will be disappointed if they are not stocked in your favorite local urban, or parks water. Sorry. This stocking of “bonus” fish is a rare event with only a few fish, but we believe those fish should not be left in a settling pond on a hatchery. We want anglers to have an opportunity to catch some of these “bonus” fish, and we believe it is important that folks know about this opportunity. For those of you disappointed that your favorite water was not stocked with these few, large, “bonus” channel cats, just remember that the waters you fish likely have some big channels anyhow, fish that were stocked years ago and have been growing ever since.
Very soon I will follow this blog post up with all the details. I just wanted to get the word out and give you a little “teaser” right now. “Stay tuned”.
We want folks to know about this and to take advantage of the opportunity to catch some of these “bonus” fish that are being stocked. In the next few weeks, if you catch a nice channel cat, whether it was from one of the handful of waters that is being stocked with the “bonus” fish or not, we would like to know about it! There are big channel cats in waters all across Nebraska, and chances are most of them were fish that originated in one of our Nebraska state fish hatcheries anyway. We would like to see some pictures of those fish, wherever they were caught, and especially if they are one of the “bonus” fish that will be stocked this week. Please e-mail me a photo or post it on our Game & Parks FaceBook page.
I have to mention one last thing. As I said, we are only going to have a few of the “bonus” channel catfish to stock. I know many anglers like to fry up their channel cats, but if these larger-than-average fish are harvested, that will be it–“One and Done”. Channel catfish are a robust fish that can withstand some handling even in the heat of the summer. Catch one of the bonus fish or another large channel cat, snap a photo to share with us, and then turn ’em loose! If you do that, these few “bonus” fish can provide a thrill for several anglers, Fish Recycling.