May 22, 2019

Catfish Becoming Dominant Species in Lower Potomac

Name this man from the past ……..

Message From the Cap’n is a compilation of history, fishing advice, waterman and weather insights, Chesapeake lore, and ordinary malarkey from the folks who keep their feet wet in the Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers.

This month’s highlight: More catfish than we’ve ever seen!

The Interpretive Buoy System data is not current because the buoys are being updated or replaced.

“I would guess that the salinity is up to about 10 or 11 PSU because I can now taste the salt in the spray that lands on my arms.” 

Willie Dean, local pound netter, Scotland, MD

The NOAA Real-Time Buoy Data indicates that 2018 was the wettest year on record for the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries and how the current conditions affect living resources in the coming months.

Wet, Wet, Wet times brought catfish downriver with the lower salinity to the point that they have become a dominant species.

A boatload of catfish – spring, 2019.

As a result last fall, 2018 produced a bumper crop of catfish in the lower Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers. Pound netters had catches in excess of 100,000 pounds during this period.

During the first week of April 2019, catfish were still the main product caught in pound nets from Piney Point, the mouth of the St. Mary’s, Smith’s Creek, and the lower bay shore at Scotland, MD. Most of the other fish like menhaden and perch are consumed by the catfish once they go into the net.

Pound netters have seen the catfish production slack off as they are moving up the creeks feasting on newly molted soft crabs. Commercial crabbers are not making expenses as of the first week of May. The only crabbers that are catching crabs are running down the Chesapeake about 60-80 miles.

Up until last summer it was practically unheard of to catch a catfish in a crab pot below Piney Point Hollow. Catfish even wreck havoc to some crab pots. Some of the catfish that jammed themselves into crab pots and were so big that they could not be turned loose unless the pot was destroyed.

On a positive note, recreational fishermen will have a great summer catching catfish hook and line.

Here is hoping the Chesapeake has a dry spell to enhance the levels of salinity back to 12 to 15 PSU in our area.

Till next time, remember “It’s Our Bay, Let’s Pass It On.”

Reach Cap’n Jack at arster694@gmail.com or 240-434-1385

To learn about tours and trips into the Chesapeake, get more information on Fins + Claws’ Leader member page.

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