If you happened to see a state fish hatchery truck at your favorite inland fishing reservoir lately, it is likely that the crew was salting the water with a new crop of channel catfish.
Stocking catfish? Some fishermen may wonder about the need to stock these feisty, find-em-everywhere fish. But there are good reasons to supplement natural stocks in certain conditions, as we shall see:
Channel cats are the old reliable - year-round, even through the ice - feeding when other species get lockjaw and ever ready to inhale anything from a nightcrawler to a stinkbait, even jigs and other artificials. They are bulldog fighters and great on the grill, and countless anglers pursue them from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
But keeping a steady supply of them available for fishermen can be a challenge, which is why, each September and October, the Ohio Division of Wildlife plants about 250,000 yearling channel catfish in select inland impoundments across the state. They are reared at the Hebron, Senecaville, and St. Marys state fish hatcheries.
Mike Wilkerson, a fisheries biologist with Ohio Wildlife District 2, said that the stocking is complete for this fall's designated reservoirs in northwest Ohio.
They include Lake Us at the Lake La Su An State Wildlife Area in Williams County; Mallard Lake at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark and Pearson Pond at Pearson Metropark, both in Lucas County; Pond 33 at Killdeer Plains State Wildlife Area in Wyandot County; Raccoon Creek Reservoir at Clyde in Sandusky County; Schoonover Reservoir near Lima and Lima Lake in Allen County; Paulding Reservoir in Paulding County; Van Wert Reservoir No. 1 in Van Wert County, Bellevue No. 5 Reservoir in Huron County, and Upper Sandusky Reservoir No. 1 in Wyandot County.
The hatching to stocking program has been honed to the smallest detail by wildlife division fisheries teams:
Breeder-size cats are held in hatchery ponds, where they lay eggs in containers on the bottom. Eggs are collected and incubated to hatching, which takes about one week. The young fish, or fry, then are moved to other hatchery ponds and fed a formulated diet until reaching stockable size.
The stockers usually are 8 to 10-inch yearlings, actually about 15 to 16 months old. It is necessary to plant such larger sizes because smaller cats, research has shown, are easy meals for such predators as largemouth bass.
The yearlings are usually stocked into smaller ponds and reservoirs less than 700 acres because larger reservoirs usually have enough natural reproduction to sustain good fishing. But smaller waters often lack sufficient habitat for consistent reproduction or good survival of young cats.
Crews from state fisheries have attempted to improve natural reproduction in smaller lakes by introducing artificial spawning structures such as field tiles or half barrels. But even when these structures work well, many smaller lakes also need to be stocked periodically because the same waters also support large numbers of predators, particularly largemouth bass.
To improve catfish fishing in large reservoirs that may have limited natural reproduction, the state wildlife division is conducting experimental stockings. Division biologists will mark all catfish stocked into these reservoirs during the next four years and surveying the populations to determining the proportion of fish contributed by stocking and natural reproduction. That will show whether stocking is effective enough to continue on the big waters.
The typical catfish rig is a single or tandem hooks dressed with nightcrawlers, fished on or near the bottom, either under a bobber or on a slip-sinker rig. Other effective baits include chicken liver, live or cut baitfish, and even hot dogs.
Spaces are still available for a free workshop in becoming a certified fishing instructor for adults, groups, or conservation clubs with an interest in taking kids fishing.
The workshop is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 18 at Ohio Wildlife District 2 headquarters, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay.
Known as Passport to Fishing, this one-day instructor training program qualifies individuals to become certified fishing instructors, similar to a hunter education instructor.
Passport to Fishing was developed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and adopted by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Workshops teach volunteers the basics of fishing and how to run a four-station fishing program with a fishing event. Instructors then have a written curriculum and training aids to teach youngsters and beginning anglers the basics of fishing.
To register call 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543). For additional class information, visit www.wildohio.com.
On the weekend - National Wildlife Refuge Week, open house, tomorrow, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/Visitor Center, 14000 State Rt. 2, Oak Harbor, includes self-guided auto tour through normally closed areas of the refuge, family nature/bird walk at 10 a.m., wagon rides through the marsh at 11 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m.; also, nature photographer Brian Zwiebel, Sunday, 2 p.m., Visitor Center, "Digital Nature Photography with a Focus on Birds," part of "Naturally Speaking" seminars series held in partnership with the Black Swamp Bird Observatory; call the refuge 419-898-0014.
Fall Color Canoe Trip, Sunday, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Van Buren Lake and the Rocky Ford Creek; $10/canoe suggested donation to the Friends of Van Buren State Park, Hancock County; to register call naturalist Natalie Miller 419-348-7679.
Tonight and tomorrow, annual fall camp-out, Mary Jane Thurston State Park, State Rt. 65 Grand Rapids, Wood County; evening movie, scarecrow building, pumpkin painting, chili dinner, evening owl program; details, call naturalist Natalie Miller at 419-348-7679 or the park office 419-832-7662
Contact Steve Pollick at: