Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin
Bullhead catfish family - ictaluridae, pp. 693-732 PDF (19.6 MB)
Stonecat 727 largest specimen examined was 196 mm, and was in its seventh year of life. In Ohio streams (Gilbert 1953), the calculated stan- dard lengths of stonecats according to an analysis of the vertebrae were: 1-54mm; 2-73 mm; 3-89 mm; 4-104 mm; 5-116 umm; and 6-129 mm. In Lake Erie, the yearly growth was somewhat greater: 1-68 mm; 2-121 mm; 3-162 mm; 4-181 mm; 5-195 mm; 6- 203 mm; 7-208 mm; 8-224 mm; and 9-237 mm. The more rapid growth in Lake Erie was believed to be due to the abundance of mayfly naiads as food. No difference in the growth of the sexes was noted. The maximum known size for a stonecat is 312 mm (12.3 in) and 482 g (1 lb 1 oz) (Trautman 1957). The food of the stonecat consists of aquatic in- sects, mollusks, minnows, crayfishes, and plant ma- terials. In Iowa (Harrison 1950) the stonecat ate the following items: aquatic riffle insects (64% of vol- ume); fish, including spotfin shiners, common shin- ers, and a bullhead minnow (14%); crayfish and earthworms (9%); filamentous algae and weed seeds of terrestrial origin (7%); and undetermined organic matter (5%). In Missouri, Pflieger (1975) found that stonecats consumed the immature stages of various riffle-dwelling insects, supplemented with an occa- sional darter or other small fish. Stonecats seek food by their sense of smell or taste, and they use their barbels as they cruise along close to the bottom. They probably feed at night. During feeding, they may work their way into quiet water (Taylor 1969). Compared to most other members of the family, the stonecat is a solitary catfish. During the warmer months stonecats may become common on riffles or shoals. As colder weather approaches, however, most stream stonecats leave the riffles and migrate to water as deep as 2.4 m (8 ft) (Gilbert 1953); only a few scat- tered individuals remain behind. As warm weather approaches, they again return to the riffles. The stonecat tolerates pollution and oxygen deple- tion which few other fish can survive. Although a relatively northern species of Noturus, the stonecat is seldom found in water cold enough to maintain sal- monids. In southern Ontario, a single stonecat was taken in association with the brook trout at an average water temperature of 15.7°C (60.3°F), but it occured more commonly with the rock bass and smallmouth bass at water temperatures of 20.7-21.5°C (69.3- 70.6°F) (Hallam 1959). In warmwater streams of southern Ontario with typical water temperatures of 23.9-26.7°C (75-80'F) during the summer months, the stonecat was an im- portant member of a white sucker-blacknose dace- creek chub-common shiner association (M. G. John- son 1965). In three stream sections studied, there were 58-410 stonecats per hectare, representing standing crops of 0.34-3.70 kg/ha (0.3-3.3 lb/acre). In Kuenster Creek (Grant County), 10 stonecats were associated with these species: white sucker (+), central stoneroller (26+), hornyhead chub (26+), creek chub (1), bluntnose minnow (2), suckermouth minnow (19), common shiner (23), rosyface shiner (1), bigmouth shiner (1), johnny darter (1), fantail darter (18), and smallmouth bass (4). IMPORTANCE AND MANAGEMENT Although the stonecat is not subject to much preda- tion, it has been eaten by smallmouth bass and a by a watersnake (Scott and Crossman 1973). In some areas, the stonecat is said to be of considerable im- portance as food for the smallmouth bass, and its level of abundance becomes an excellent index of small- mouth bass abundance (Trautman 1957). There exists a report of a healthy brown trout, 381 mm (15 in) long, that had disgorged a 100-mm (4-in), partially di- gested stonecat (Walden 1964). The stonecat is used as channel and flathead cat- fish bait by anglers fishing the lower Wisconsin River. Adams and Hankinson (1926) noted its value as a bass bait. On the Ohio River prior to 1925, commercial fishermen caught it in numbers to be used as trotline bait. Jones (1964) has written of the stonecat, "Often mistaken for the black bullhead, the stonecat is a fair food fish and is taken in numbers by youthful fish- ermen who consider the sting of its poisonous spine inconsequential." Because of its secretive, nocturnal habits, the stonecat is not often seen, but like many fish it will go after a tempting bait that comes along during the day. Although it is of little value as a com- mercial fish or a sport fish, the flesh of the stonecat is excellent (Greeley 1929).
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