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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin

Bullhead catfish family - ictaluridae,   pp. 693-732 PDF (19.6 MB)

Page 732

732   Bullhead Catfish Family-Ictaluridae 
previously, the two were soon fighting; after they were 
separated each returned to its respective place in the 
tank. However, fighting erupted once more (Fon- 
taine 1944:51): 
* . . It was not until late in the afternoon that day that they 
started fighting again. After sparring for a few minutes the 
female backed away from the male a distance of about 18 
inches, made one rush and struck him in the side. He rolled 
over and floated to the surface, belly up. He was removed 
to a reserve tank and lived for two days then died. An au- 
topsy revealed that the blow had injured his intestine, 
stomach and several other organs. 
The flathead catfish is not particularly vulnerable to 
predators because of its rapid growth and secretive 
habits; however, the survival of 38-51-mm fingerling 
flatheads stocked in ponds containing adult sun- 
fishes and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) was 
low-from 0 to 1.5% (Hackney 1966). In ponds where 
there were large numbers of crayfish present, the 
flathead fingerling mortality rate was very high 
(Henderson 1965). 
  The flathead catfish is host to the glochidia of a 
number of freshwater mussels, including Amblema 
plicata, Megalonaias gigantea, Quadrula nodulata, Quad- 
rula pustulosa, Quadrula quadrina, and Elliptio dilatata 
(Hart and Fuller 1974). 
  Along the lower Wisconsin River, the flathead cat- 
fish is sometimes called the "candy bar," attesting to 
the superb flavor and texture of its flesh. It is a much 
sought-after prize, and some fishermen specialize in 
catching it by setline or bank pole. The methods used 
for catching flatheads are similar to those used for 
taking channel catfish, except that only live or freshly 
killed baits are effective with the flathead. J. Kincan- 
non (pers. comm.), who kept a record of the flathead 
catfish he took from the lower Wisconsin River near 
Blue River (Grant County) from 22 May to 15 June 
1963, caught 12 flatheads totalling 79.4 kg (175 lb); 
they ranged in size from 2.27 to 15.88 kg (5 to 35 lb), 
and were taken on bullheads and channel catfish up 
to 330 mm (13 in) long. They were caught along steep, 
grassy banks where old tree roots and logs were in 
  During 1960, on the Wisconsin River between 
Prairie du Sac and Lone Rock, sport fishermen creeled 
11 flathead catfish (averaging 660 mm) out of 3,243 
fish caught. Between Lone Rock and the mouth of 
the Wisconsin River, 16 flatheads (averaging 648 mm) 
were caught out of a total of 1,528 fish (C. Brynild- 
son 1960). During 1967-1968, in Pools 4, 5, 7, and 11 
of the Mississippi River, the estimated sport fishery 
catch was 1,909 flathead catfish weighing 1,280 kg 
(2,821 lb) (Wright 1970). Bachay (1944) reported that 
in a hole below a wing dam near Dresbach (Pool 7), 
Minnesota, the Kramer brothers took a yearly average 
of 3.2-4.5 thousand kg (7-10 thousand lb) of flat- 
head catfish on setlines; their largest catch was taken 
from December through February. During the winter 
of 1942, the Kramer brothers took more than 5.4 
thousand kg (12 thousand lb) of flathead catfish in 
gill nets. 
  In the upper Fox River, fishermen fish for flat- 
heads with setlines and bank poles using large white 
suckers, redhorse suckers, carp, sheepshead, and 
yellow bullheads on 5/0 and 7/0 hooks. Fishing is done 
at night from 2000 to 0630 hr. B. Curless (pers. comm.) 
and another fisherman caught 28 flathead catfish 
ranging from 4.54 to 19.05 kg (10 to 42 Ib) in the vi- 
cinity of Berlin (Green Lake County) and Eureka 
(Winnebago County) between 1 July and 14 Septem- 
ber 1973. 
  In the commercial fishery statistics for the Missis- 
sippi River, the flathead catfish is included with the 
channel catfish under the caption "catfish." The ratio 
of flathead catfish to channel catfish is very low; in 
the Iowa waters of the Mississippi River (Schou- 
macher 1968), it is 1:49. 
  Some success in the propagation of the flathead 
catfish has been achieved since the 1950s (Giudice 
1965, Henderson 1965, Sneed et al. 1961, and Snow 
1959). Snow, citing Swingle, reported that in rearing 
ponds the flathead catfish grew at a rate of 905 g (2 
lb) per year, had an excellent flavor, and appeared 
promising as a commercial species. Yearling flathead 
catfish stocked in May at 178 mm (7 in) and 45 g (0.1 
lb), averaged 384 mm (15.1 in) and 635 g (1.4 lb) 6 
months later (Stevenson 1964). From Oklahoma to 
Wisconsin, the standing crop of flathead catfish 
averaged 24.9 kg/ha (22.2 lb/acre); it ranged from 1.6 
to 103.6 kg/ha (1.4 to 92.4 lb/acre) (Carlander 1955). 
  The flathead catfish has for some time been used 
as a fish-control species. Swingle (1964) noted that 
large flathead catfish are predatory and in several 
cases eliminated larger bluegills. Small flatheads (51- 
127 mm) eliminated almost all fathead minnows, while 
larger flatheads apparently preferred bluegills to fat- 
head minnows; they eliminated all the large bluegills 
they could swallow, except for a few in the 178-mm 
(7-in) group, and left very few bluegills in the 102- 
152-mm (4-6-in) group. Hackney (1966) noted that 
125 large flathead catfish per hectare (50/acre) did not 
completely correct the balance in a population of 
stunted bluegills in 320 days. 

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