CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- People who like to fish for catfish might end up catching a little something extra this year.West Virginia fisheries workers have tagged hundreds of catfish this spring. The tags, little plastic tubes attached to the fishes' backs just behind their dorsal fins, will tell biologists how frequently catfish get caught and will give officials a better idea how to manage several catfish species.Similar studies have been performed on largemouth and smallmouth bass, hybrid striped bass, all three trout species, sauger and walleye. Information from those studies helped Division of Natural Resources researchers to better manage all of those species.This year's tagging effort focuses on catfish in the Ohio River and in state park lakes.The Ohio River study involves channel, flathead and blue catfish. The state park study involves the catchable-sized channel catfish the DNR stocks in park lakes and ponds.Each tag carries a unique number that will allow biologists to trace the fish from its initial capture or stocking to the time an angler catches it and reports the tag number.Ohio River tags are yellow. From them, DNR officials hope to determine the rate at which anglers catch each of the river's three catfish species, and determine how far each species moves up and downstream. State park tags are green. Biologists hope they will yield a clear picture of how often stocked channel catfish are caught, which in turn will tell them whether the stocking program is succeeding.
To give anglers an incentive for reporting tagged fish, DNR officials offer a reward for each report.Each angler who reports a tagged fish from the Ohio River will receive a set of catfish hooks and a set of lures. For fish caught in state park lakes and ponds, Parks Section officials are offering a choice: a ticket to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad, a sternwheeler ride at Blennerhassett Island, or an activity pass to Pipestem State Park.Researchers want the most consistent information they can get, so they're urging anglers to continue to fish for catfish where they usually do.They also want anglers to carefully inspect the fish for tags. Although the plastic tags are brightly colored when they're first attached to the fish, algae growth often turns them brown or black. Because they're small and flexible, they can literally blend into the dark colors of a catfish's back.Anglers can report a tag number in one of two ways: They can clip the tag off the fish and mail it to the DNR or they can write down the number and mail, e-mail or telephone it in.The number is located on the end of the tag closest to the fish. Each tag also displays the address of the DNR's Parkersburg office.Along with the tag number, anglers should also provide the day, month and year of capture; the body of water and location where the fish was caught; whether the fish was kept or released; and a return address where the reward can be mailed.
Mailed reports should be addressed to the WV Division of Natural Resources, 2311 Ohio Ave., Parkersburg WV 26101. E-mailed reports should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org
. For phone reports, anglers should call 304-420-4550.