Theses and Dissertations

Title: A comparison of the tailwater and reservoir catfish populations in a section of the Coosa River Alabama

Name: Jolley, J.C.

Degree: MS

Chair: Elise R. Irwin


University: Auburn University

Location: Auburn, Alabama

Date: 2003

Pages: 77

Keywords: tailwater,reservoir,catfish populations,Coosa River


Blue catfish Ictalurus furcatu, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, and flathead catfish Pylodictus olivarus are important recreational and commercial species in Alabama. I hypothesized that tailwater areas provided better conditions for catfishes. To test this prediction, I compared population characteristics, diet, and individual condition and health in tailwater and reservoir areas on the Coosa River, Alabama. Population characteristics included abundance, age and size structure, and growth rates.Blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish were collected from three tailwater and three reservoir sites on the Coosa River, April 2001 - July 2002. Tailwater areas supported more abundant, larger catfishes in higher condition than reservoir areas. I found that blue catfish and channel catfish were larger and grew more rapidly in tailwater areas. Channel catfish also were in better condition in tailwater areas. Flathead catfish were more abundant in tailwater areas and had a population structure made up of a wide size range.Increased growth, abundance, and condition appeared related to physical habitat and/or diet diversity and quality. Inundated shoal habitat and deep water habitats are preferred by large flathead catfish and blue catfish. Large fish were more prevalent in tailwater areas although large blue catfish were not effectively captured with electrofishing. Fish prey was important for all three species in tailwater areas and all prey types were more diverse.Channel catfish had higher relative weights in tailwater areas. Lipid analysis did not indicate differences between habitats for all species. The health assessment did not indicate any differences between habitats for all species. Modification of the health assessment will be necessary to better provide information regarding the health of catfish populations.Catfish angling has become more popular and more numerous, larger fish are being caught. The threat of growth- overfishing exists for slow-growing, long-lived species. In addition, catfishes may be more susceptible to harvest in tailwater areas and the potential for overharvest exists if exploitation levels become high. Alternatively, tailwater areas may provide the opportunity to manage for trophy fisheries. Catfish managers should set goals for specific fisheries based on the characteristics of the populations and habitat and expectations of the angling public.

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