Record Catfish Released Back Into The Wild

Ed Jones's 84-pound blue catfish caught on August 13 in the Potomac River near Fort Washington has been officially certified as a Maryland State Record. The Aloha, Oregon native and his guide, Captain Josh Fitchett of Montpelier, Va., kept the fish alive and took it into Fort Washington Marina to have it weighed and certified by a Maryland Department of Natural Resource (DNR) Fisheries Service biologist.

Jones's catfish measured 52 inches in length, with a girth of 36.5 inches.

The previous Maryland blue catfish record was an 80-pound, 12-ounce fish caught in February by Shawn Wetzel of Orrtanna, Pa., near where Jones caught his record fish.

As part of a cooperative study by Maryland and Virginia fisheries biologists, DNR biologists tagged the fish before Jones and Fitchett returned the fish alive into the Potomac near where they caught it. Anglers who catch and report a tagged catfish will receive a commemorative Catfish Program hat and pin, while helping study distribution of catfish in area waters. Anglers must call the number on the yellow or green tags, 301-888-2423, to receive the reward.

Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi Valley and were introduced to the James and Rappahannock Rivers in the 1970s. The fish have reproduced and spread throughout the tidal Potomac River system. Large flathead catfish, another non-native species, and blue catfish have subsequently turned up in Chesapeake Bay tributaries and waters including the Nanticoke, Susquehanna, Northeast, the Upper Chesapeake Bay and other waters. Blue catfish are long-lived, fast growing, opportunistic feeders. Their introduction can cause irreversible changes in the food web, which could negatively impact ecologically and economically important native fish species.

?While fisheries scientists and managers recognize the enthusiasm and economic impact of anglers in search of record catfish, we don?t want to encourage the development and spread of this species,? said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O?Connell. ?As top predators, they are a serious threat to our native species.?

Anglers should know that it is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish for the purpose of introduction into another body of water. Additionally, DNR officials are asking anglers to remove and kill any blue and flathead catfish that they catch. This is a fishery where the practice of catch and release is discouraged by resource managers.

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