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Northwest Sportsman Magazine

25,000 Channel Cats Released Into 11 Western WA Lakes

Following up on the September release of 25,000 channel catfish into Eastern Washington lakes, a like amount has been set free this month in Westside waters.

While they’re on the smaller side now — just 8 to 11 inches — give them a couple years and they should reach the upper teens, inchwise, and provide some pretty good fish fries for anglers everywhere from Kalama up to the Canadian border.

ONE OF THE 50,000 CHANNEL CATFISH WDFW RECENTLY STOCKED INTO 30 LAKES ACROSS WASHINGTON, INCLUDING 11 ON THE WESTSIDE THIS MONTH. (WDFW)

And if that whopper landed at Lacamas Lake in late September tells us anything about how long members of the Ictaluridae family can live, they’ll be around awhile.

“The last time that was stocked was 20 years ago — in the early 1990s — and that indicates the longevity of these fish,” says Bruce Bolding, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s warmwater program manager.

He feels that the 28.1-pounder is a channel catfish, not a brown bullhead, as it was initially identified as.

Genetic samples were sent to University of Washington last week for further analysis, according to a biologist at WDFW Vancouver.

A total of 11 Western Washington lakes were stocked with channel catfish Oct. 3-6 and Oct. 13, and they’re primarily along or near the I-5 corridor.

Many have been planted multiple times in the past, but there are a couple new ones in the rotation this year to make up for the end of catfish stocking at Harts Lake in Pierce County.

Lake size determined how many channels were stocked, typically at 10 per acre, according to Bolding.

From the top, the waters include:

Terrell, west of Ferndale, 5,000

Fazon, south of Everson, 500; has been planted 10 times in the past

Campbell, on Fidalgo Island, 4,000; has been planted seven times in the past

Gissberg Ponds/Twin Lakes, in Smokey Point, 500 each; have been planted eight times in the past

Green, in Seattle, 3,500; has been planted seven times in the past

St. Clair, southeast of Lacey, 3,500; first ever planting

Lawrence, south of Yelm, 4,000; first ever planting

Chambers, west of Lacey, 800; has been planted three times in the past

Swofford, southeast of Mossyrock, 2,000

Kress, north of Kalama, 500

The channels cost WDFW $42,000, or about 84 cents a fish, Bolding says.

By comparison, those other eating machines that the agency stocks, triploids, cost $2.75 apiece, he says.

“They’re small and kinda skinny, but they’re going to grow quickly. Once they get up to 18 to 20 inches, their length-growth slows down and they start to put on girth. Same as for bass and tiger muskies,” Bolding says.

Much of the cost was to transport the fish some 2,110 miles to WDFW’s Ringold hatchery complex, north of Tri-Cities.

“From 1995 to 2005, we stocked them almost every years. There was a catfish facility in Chico, California, that we were able to drive our hatchery trucks down to. Now, the nearest certified disease-free facility is in Lonoke, Arkansas,” Bolding says.

The first load of 25,000 were released into 19 Eastern Washington lakes.

THE CATFISH CANNON IN ACTION, FLUSHING CHANNELS INTO A WESTSIDE LAKE. (WDFW)

Because of water temperatures, it’s unlikely that — at least on the Westside — any of the channels will reproduce on their own and create future problems for fishery managers, such as with the unwanted efforts of bucket biologists.

“I’m confident they’re going to remain functionally sterile in Western Washington. It’s really important we balance conservation with recreational opportunity,” Bolding says.

It’s a “recreational opportunity” that is now available for Emerald City, T-town, B’ham and Oly anglers alike, and will only get better in the coming years.

“We’re excited to have them, and I think the anglers will be too when they start catching them,” says Bolding.

6 comments to 25,000 Channel Cats Released Into 11 Western WA Lakes

  • This is so awesome that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has acutally done something that should have been done 50 years ago. What a great speices and since these are Channel Cat and not catfish, even better yet as these taste way better then catfish or brown bullheads etc.. KUDS WDFW!!!

    • Andy Walgamott

      Talk to Bruce Bolding/WDFW warmwater overlord about it — he may not be able to get ahold of another shipment of channel cats this year, but hopes to in 2013.

      AW
      NWS

  • john

    This is terrible. DFW has done it again, and likely destroyed the fishing in a few more lakes. Channel cats are known to eat whatever fits in their mouth. they’ll destroy st Clair. that lake had no cats of any kind.well see if this was such a good idea. look at what they did to Stafford like with surgeon. there are no crappie in that lake and no bass above a pound anymore all thanks to the all might DFW.

  • Brandon Samp

    AHHH i hope they plant way!!! more of these fish they are a blast to catch and great to eat. They will create more compatition for food and even out fish populations like the exsplosive perch. and they didnt plant any in lakes close to me!!!

  • Caleb whitworth

    For the uneducated responses to this article as a guy from the south where catfish are abundent channel cats are not the fish you have to worry about eating everything they can blue cats and flat head cats enjoy life prey and will eat anything that they can get their mouths around however channels are less agressive and will mainly eat inverteberetes on the bottom and dead fish and animals so dont worry about WDFW ruining your fishing

  • Ken

    I agree with you Caleb about the aggressiveness of the blues and flat heads as being more aggressive than the channels. However, adult channels are opportunistic and aggressive, too, and do eat live fish, frogs, ducklings, snakes, salamanders, snails, clams, weeds, etc. They are omnivores. When young they primarily eat some of the smaller things that they find on or around the bottom, such as, bugs, worms, weeds, dead fish, snails, etc. as they get older they will offer ”chase” to other prey. That’s why you can catch them on lures which I have done a few times. The one advantage that lakes in Western WA have is that the water temps are usually too low or take too long to warm uo for the catfish to spawn, so you don’t have a naturally reproducing specie and therefore a minor population of a lake’s fish. Also, the cooler overall temps will prevent the catfish from growing as quickly as in a warm climate. Because of this, it’s my viewpoint that catfish stocked in lakes will not have an adverse impact on the population of the other fish. Btw, I’m from TX originally. I miss great catfishing opportunities, but I’ve heard good things about some of the rivers in Eastern WA and plan on making my first trip this month.

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