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.
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
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.
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.