Population Dynamics of a Stunted Blue Catfish Population in a Small Oklahoma Impoundment

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Micah J. Waters
Richard A. Snow
Michael J. Porta
Michael T. Hollie


Blue Catfish populations create popular recreational fisheries throughout the United
States. Many of these populations were introduced due to their popularity as a sportfish. However, Blue Catfish introductions are not always successful, particularly in small reservoirs. In 2017, a Blue Catfish population was discovered in Meeker Reservoir, a small impoundment in central Oklahoma. Because Blue Catfish populations generally do not do well in small impoundments, an evaluation was implemented to describe population characteristics, recruitment dynamics, and estimate abundance of preferred-length (> 760 mm) Blue Catfish in Meeker Reservoir. Blue Catfish in this population have high longevity, slow growth, low annual mortality, and reach sexual maturity at small sizes. Recruitment of Blue Catfish was variable, although fish from 21 year classes were observed, of which three year classes were dominant (combine to make 58% of fish in the sample). Strong year classes were produced in years with higher mean annual temperatures (> 16.5°C). Overall, this population is overcrowded and stunted, but a small proportion of fish still reach preferred size. Slow growth of Blue Catfish in this population may be explained by some combination of competition, genetics, low reservoir productivity, and reproductive strategy. The small size structure of this population creates a challenging management scenario, because most fish are below the size that anglers are willing to harvest. Although this population may be anomalous, our results provide important information regarding Blue Catfish population characteristics and recruitment in a small impoundment.

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Applied Ecology & Conservation