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Invasive catfish predator invades Georgia river

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Flathead catfish are invading one other Georgia river, state officers warn, a predator that might threaten native fish included the prized redbreast sunfish.

The Georgia Division of Pure Assets mentioned that systematic sampling in August discovered greater than a dozen flathead catfish in a stretch of the Ogeechee River simply upstream from Interstate 95.

Wildlife officers are urging anglers to catch as many flathead as they’ll and report them to the state Wildlife Assets Division, however to not launch them again into the Ogeechee.

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“They will be one of many apex predators round each system as soon as they set up these populations,” Wildlife Assets biologist Joel Fleming instructed The Telegraph of Macon. “If they’ll match it of their mouth, they’re going to eat it.”

A industrial fisherman had caught one flathead within the river in December 2021, however not one of the fish had been discovered since then, regardless of in depth sampling.

The flathead catfish is native to many rivers that drain to the Gulf of Mexico, together with the Coosa River drainage in northwest Georgia. However the fish has develop into established in a number of Georgia rivers that drain to the Atlantic Ocean, together with the Satilla, Altamaha, and Savannah rivers.

Georgia officers have waged a long-running warfare towards the flathead within the Satilla River, which drains elements of southeast Georgia earlier than discharging into the Atlantic north of Brunswick, eradicating 64,000 flathead catfish from the river between 2007 and 2016. Wildlife biologists consider predatory flatheads, which might develop to greater than 100 kilos, have suppressed populations of native fish within the Satilla basin.

Fleming mentioned that about 20 flatheads had been pulled from the Ogeechee as of Monday. The typical measurement of the flatheads pulled was about 17 inches on the finish of August, Fleming mentioned, however one flathead eliminated by a two-person crew Monday was longer than 38 inches.

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Fleming mentioned biologists consider the flatheads caught within the Ogeechee could have “wandered in” from the Savannah River via coastal waterways when the rivers had been excessive.

About six or seven persons are utilizing electrical present to stun fish on the Ogeechee and depend totally different catfish species. Sampling crews cannot inform for positive how far upstream flathead catfish have unfold as a result of they’re eradicating the fish and killing them, as an alternative of tagging them and releasing them.

Tim Barrett, coastal area fisheries supervisor for the Division of Pure Assets, mentioned crews can solely hope to carry down the inhabitants of flathead catfish within the Ogeechee.

“It’s simply bodily unattainable to take all of them out,” Barrett mentioned.

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