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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2004

Contact: Karen Hershey
(609) 984-1795

DEP ADVISES ANGLERS TO BE AWARE OF INVASIVE SPECIES OF CATFISH

(04/99) TRENTON -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today the first catch of a Flathead catfish from New Jersey waters. The non-native species is a voracious predator that has decimated native populations of other catfish, certain species of sunfish and rare species of sturgeon in the southeastern United States.

"The threat of the Flathead is significant, given its ravenous appetite and its potential for causing damage to native New Jersey fish populations," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Anglers should report any catches or sightings of this fish to the Department."

The fish was caught in the Lambertville section of the Delaware and Raritan Canal on July 23rd using a live nightcrawler for bait. Flathead catfish are native to a broad area west of the Appalachian Mountains encompassing the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River basins. They are an extremely predaceous catfish, reproducing and dispersing rapidly in river systems.

Flathead catfish have been documented to eat substantial numbers of American shad during their spawning run. For these reasons, the introduction of the Flathead catfish has been called the "most biologically harmful of all fish introductions in North America." In the southeastern United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed it as its highest priority among invasive animal species.

Flatheads can grow to a large size, and in warmer climates 90 to 100 pound fish have been documented. The body is yellowish brown to dark brown with black or brown mottling on lighter brown sides. It has a broadly flattened head and a tail that is only slightly indented, appearing more rounded or square. The key characteristic that helps anglers distinguish the flathead catfish from other catfish is that the lower jaw of the Flathead catfish projects past the upper jaw.

Anglers that catch what they think is a Flathead catfish are asked not to release it back into the water, and to notify the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at:

1255 County Route 629
Lebanon, NJ 08833
908-236-2118
email: njfishandwildlife@dep.state.nj.us

A photograph of the fish is requested to confirm identification. For more information and to view a photograph of a Flathead catfish, visit the U.S. Geological Survey website at:
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpFactSheet.asp?speciesID=750

 

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