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Invasive Flathead Catfish Found in New Jersey

June 18, 2009

The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has verified a 5.5 pound, 20-inch Flathead Catfish was caught in the Delaware River at the Firemanís Hole, Lambertville, on June 10, 2009. This is the third confirmed catch in New Jersey. A similar sized Flathead was caught in the Delaware River near the mouth of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in August, 2008.

The first Flathead (10 inches) was caught in the Lambertville section of the D & R Canal in July of 1999. (The above three Delaware River Flathead catfish undoubtedly originated from a reproducing population in Schuylkill River. (See www.fish.state.pa.us/pafish/catfish_flathead/00flathead.htm on the Pennsylvania Fish Commission's website for details.)

Flathead catfish are native to a broad area west of the Appalachian Mountains encompassing the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River basins. They are an extremely predaceous catfish, reproducing and dispersing rapidly in river systems. Flathead catfish have been documented to eat substantial numbers of American shad during their spawning run. In the southeastern United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed it as its highest priority among invasive animal species.

Flatheads can grow to a large size, and in warmer climates 90 to 100 pound fish have been documented. The body is yellowish brown to dark brown with black or brown mottling on lighter brown sides. It has a broadly flattened head and a tail that is only slightly indented, appearing more rounded or square. The key characteristic that helps anglers distinguish the flathead catfish from other catfish is that the lower jaw of the Flathead catfish projects past the upper jaw.

Anglers that catch what they think is a Flathead catfish are asked not to release it back into the water, and to notify the Division's Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at:

Lebanon Field Office
1255 County Route 629
Lebanon, NJ 08833
908-236-2118
E-mail: mark.boriek@earthlink.net

A photograph of the fish is requested to confirm identification.

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Last Updated: June 18, 2009