Overharvesting trophy catfish in South Dakota’s James River?

MITCHELL, S.D. — South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department is studying catfish in the James River for the first time in about two decades to see if trophy catfish are being overharvested.

Officials will spend about 1,200 hours researching the fish over the next two years, The Daily Republic reported . The study began last month and is being conducted on roughly 40 miles of the James River.

Researchers will catch fish, document certain information, tag the animals and then release them back into the river. Researchers aim to catch and tag 300 flathead and 700 channel catfish annually.

So far, researchers are on target with the 150 flatheads they’ve caught, but have tagged fewer than 100 channels, said Dave Lucchesi, a fisheries biologist with the department and one of the study’s lead investigators.

“We’ve really struggled on channels,” he said. “We should have close to 300 by now based on the study design.”

Catfish anglers are concerned about overharvesting and are pushing for more restrictive regulations, Lucchesi said.

Researchers will use trotlines, hoop nets and electrofishing to catch the fish.

“Hopefully next year we can recapture some of these fish that we put tags into,” said B.J. Schall, one of the study’s lead investigators. “Knowing the abundance of the population will help in how different regulations and harvest levels will impact that.”

South Dakota anglers are limited to catching 10 catfish a day. The state doesn’t have a size restriction for catfish that can be caught.

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