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Blue Catfish Watch

Main Project Information
Presented By Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Goal Track the spread of introduced blue catfish in the Chesapeake
Task Photograph and upload images of any blue catfish you catch!
Where Chesapeake, Chesapeake City, Virginia, United States of America, Maryland, United States of America Maryland and Delaware

Show us your blue catfish catch! Collaborate with scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to help us track the expanding range of the non-native blue catfish into the upper Chesapeake Bay and into Delaware Bay and the Delaware River.

Native to the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers, blue catfish were introduced to Virginia for sport fishing beginning in 1974. Since introduction, these non-native top predators have expanded their range into many of Maryland’s tributaries, including the Nanticoke, Patuxent, Choptank, Susquehanna and Sassafras Rivers. Due to their large size and adult predatory feeding behavior, blue catfish are consuming many native fish species, such as white perch, largemouth bass, American shad, river herring and menhaden. Knowing where and when these catfish are being caught is an important part of understanding their rising impact on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Remember that it is illegal in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware to transport and release live blue catfish.

Identifying Blue Catfish
Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) have a bluish-gray body and a deeply forked tail. Unlike channel catfish, they do not have spots on their body. One feature that distinguishes blue catfish from other catfishes is the prominent straight edge on their anal fin; other catfishes, including the similarly colored white catfish, have a rounded anal fin (see pictures on website).

How to Join

Join the effort using Project Noah, a free app for citizen science monitoring and ecological data collection. Report blue catfish sightings from the Chesapeake Bay using MD Blue Catfish, and from Delaware Bay and the Delaware River using DE Blue Catfish.

Help us collect data by uploading photos of blue catfish that you or others catch, along with the date, the location where you caught the fish (be as specific as possible including GPS coordinates if you have them), and the length of the fish. Please only report fish from Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Delaware River and their tributaries. If you catch a blue catfish in the Patuxent River with a pink tag near the dorsal fin (see photo below), please release it back into the water - it is one of the tagged catfish that we are tracking.

Social Media
Materials List internet connection, smart phone or camera
Ideal Age Group Elementary school (6 - 10 years), Middle school (11 - 13 years), High school (14 - 17 years), College, Graduate students, Adults, Families
Ideal Frequency Just once
Average Time Less than an hour
Spend the Time outdoors
Type of Activity In oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, While fishing
Tags catfish, fishing, invasive species, recreational fishing, smithsonian
Project Updated 07/20/2018