Fishing for Invasives

On Sunday, July 23rd, I drove down to Sharptown, MD for the 2nd Annual Invasive Species Tournament on the Nanticoke, put on by Dr. Noah Bressman at Salisbury University. The goal of this tournament is to remove invasive blue catfish and snakeheads from the Nanticoke River and to collect data on those animals. One of the research focuses of Dr. Bressman’s lab is to investigate the health, biology and ecology of these invasive species, which includes studying what they are eating.

Altogether, those of us who participated in the tournament removed just over 760 invasive blue catfish from the Nanticoke River. Also removed were 3 snakeheads, one of which is being measured in the image above. Even removing a small number of snakeheads can make a big difference as this species is known to reproduce multiple times a year (up to 5 times!) and produce up to 15,000 eggs each time they reproduce. If you do some quick math there, that’s up to 75,000 babies a year.

Tournaments like this one are a great way to help reduce the population of invasive species. In fact, there is at least one other invasive species tournament that you can still participate in if you’re interested. The Great Chesapeake Invasives Count with the Chesapeake Conservation Association began April 1st and goes through October. In order to participate, click the link to register and then upload data on invasive species (including location caught, length/weight/stomach contents). You can catch a variety of species throughout the Chesapeake Bay as part of this tournament and you’re helping provide data on these species. Each month, those who submit their catch are entered to win a variety of prizes.

One of my favorite parts of the Nanticoke Tournament was that a number of very small catfish were caught. While these are often considered waste – who wants to take the time to filet a fish that is only a few inches long – we were able to collect many of these smaller catfish to feed the animals here at Phillips Wharf. In addition, groups from local churches and food kitchens were on hand to collect larger fish that people didn’t want to keep. This video below shows how much our snapping turtle, Leela, has been enjoying her chunks of catfish.


 – Dr. Kristen

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