MOREHEAD CITY — Carteret County fishermen and others may notice more white catfish in local rivers when they go out on the waters.
According to a notice from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, in September the commission stocked over 150,000 white catfish in several southeastern North Carolina streams. White catfish are the largest catfish species native to coastal North Carolina rivers, and this year marked the first time they were widely stocked by WRC staff.
White catfish have been absent from rivers in southeastern North Carolina for several decades due to predation by nonnative flathead catfish. First stocked in 1965, flathead catfish were observed to readily consume native catfish species, including white catfish.
Watha state fish hatchery superintendent Jeff Evans said production efforts were extremely successful this year.
“We were able to stock significantly more white catfish fingerlings than we had anticipated into Holly Shelter Creek, Rice’s Creek and the South River,” he said. “Although their maximum size is smaller than invasive catfish such as the blue and flathead catfish, they commonly reach 3 to 5 pounds, and the state record is 13 pounds.”
WRC District 4 fisheries biologist Kyle Rachels said the 2019 Catfish Management Plan prioritizes native catfish conservation in coastal North Carolina rivers.
“The reintroduction of white catfish into these rivers supports that goal and will provide anglers the opportunity to catch and harvest a native sport fish species,” Mr. Rachels said.
The stocked white catfish will likely take one to two years to reach catchable size and are protected by a 10-fish daily creel limit in combination with other bullhead species. Biologists will continue to survey the areas to assess if stockings are successfully replenishing populations and adjust management plans as needed.