Catfish rise from the depths of no respect

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Considered by many just 20 or 25 years ago to be a trash fish, catfish have worked their way well up the fishing totem pole in recent years.

The discovery and development of trophy fisheries for big blue and flathead catfish have certainly driven the public’s desire to tussle with the whiskered battleships of freshwater – even to the point of catfish-specific tackle being sold by most major manufacturers, as well as anglers learning and developing new ways to rig bait up in an attractive manner.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has taken notice of the number of anglers targeting blues, flatheads and channel cats in the state’s lakes and rivers. The agency is offering workshops for anglers who want to learn how to target catfish. One will be on Thursday, June 2, at the Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville, beginning at 6 p.m. Registration is available at www.ncwildlife.org/learning.

Record bear harvest

North Carolina bear hunters set a record during the 2022-23 season, breaking the 4,000 mark for the first time, an increase of more than 10% over the previous season.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said all-time biggest harvests were recorded in the Coastal and Mountain Bear Management Units: 2,533 and 1,468 bears respectively.

Colleen Olfenbuttel, the commission’s black-bear biologist, said the big harvest in the mountains was largely due to a poor acorn crop last fall, which puts more bears on the move in search of food, making them more vulnerable to hunters.

“(It) likely reflects the influence of the poor acorn crop we observed in fall 2022 in this region,” she said. “Acorn production has been surveyed by the (commission) for 40 years, and when acorn production is poor, bears will move more in search of fall foods.”

Hyde County was the top county for overall harvest, with 289 bears tagged, followed by Beaufort with 249, Jones with 204 and Tyrrell with 212. The top county in the mountain region was Haywood with 161 bears taken, followed by McDowell with 135, Madison with 127 and Buncombe with 122.

The harvest report showed that 84% of all bears were taken on private land; by contrast, in the mountains, slightly more than one-third of bears were taken on public land. Also, more hunters are taking bears while still-hunting or hunting from stands, 41% vs. 59% taken by hunters using dogs.

Olfenbuttel said that female bears comprised 40% of the stateside harvest, up 11% over 2011-22.

“Based on our most current data, we are meeting the population objective for the Coastal BMU, which is to stabilize population growth,” she said.