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Illinois hunting and fishing

Bringing just one blue catfish to the scales and vault a tournament angler into first place.

Blue catfish stocking put off until 2011

December 20, 2010 at 05:47 PM

The State Journal-Register

The scheduled stocking of additional blue catfish into Lake Springfield last week was canceled when a hatchery was unable to deliver the 5,500 fish ordered.

Local catfish anglers had been looking forward to the stocking. Blue catfish, which are a cousin of the smaller channel catfish.

“I am just very, very disappointed,” says Willie Schrader, director of the Lake Springfield Open Buddy Tournament Series. “But we are going to go ahead and attempt to do it again next year.”

Schrader says the hatchery in Kentucky will get another chance next year.

An alternate source had only hybrids available. Because hybrids don’t reproduce, Schrader says that source of fish was declined.

Anglers chipped in $2,000 to help buy the fish for Lake Springfield. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources contributed an additional $500.

Blue catfish grow very large, and some tournament anglers who catch them can vault all the way to first place with a single fish. The world record blue catfish weighed 130 pounds.

Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi River system and the Illinois River as far north as Peoria.

They can survive in lakes, but their ability to reproduce is in question.

Some blue catfish already are in Lake Springfield. Local catfish anglers transported blue catfish from the Mississippi River near Alton to Lake Springfield and introduced them with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and City, Water, Light and Power.

The first fish were stocked a few years back. Anglers relocated about 140 blue catfish from the Mississippi River to Lake Springfield.

Most were in the 20-pound range, with the smallest being about five pounds.

There’s evidence the catfish have grown in size. An 81-pound blue catfish was caught at the lake recently. The largest blue catfish stocked was about 56 pounds.

Fingerlings to be stocked were in the six- to eight-inch range.

“I expect they will get larger than that in Lake Springfield with its strong shad population,” says Dan Stephenson, fisheries biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“And a 12-inch fish was caught this summer, indicating possible reproduction.”

Stephenson says the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Little Grassy Fish Hatchery near Carbondale may be able to help.

“They will try to produce some eight- to 10-inch fingerlings for me next year, depending upon pond availability and manpower,” he says.

The hatchery already has produced blue catfish for Powerton, LaSalle and Heidecke lakes, Stephenson says.

Schrader says the stocking of the 5,500 young fish is the last step.

“That’s really the end of our program,” he says. “I am ready to get it tied up. We’re shooting for Lake Springfield to be the top blue cat lake in central Illinois.”

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