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WV Wildlife: Catfish Stocking

District 5 fisheries biologist Jeff Hansbarger stocks several hundred catfish in the small lake at the Chief Cornstalk Wildlife Management Area in Mason County. (WCHS/WVAH)

The Apple Grove fish hatchery in Mason County is one of only two warm-water fish hatcheries in the state.

This 43-acre facility raises warm-water fish like musky, walleye and catfish to name a few.

Recently, young channel catfish were scooped out to find a new home.

Jeff Hansbarger, District 5 fisheries biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says these little guys are almost a year old.

"The ones we're stocking today are what are considered age 1 channel cats, so they were spawned last June. Around June is the month that most catfish spawn naturally", said Hansbarger.

These little guys are small now, but they'll grow fairly quick. The DNR has been stocking small impoundments for years now, so these fish should always be here.

"Approximately 5 to 6 to 7 inches, and it will probably take them about 3 years to get to where they're catchable size, but like I mentioned--we do this in all of the impoundments that we stock annually, or every other year, so there should be a size class moving up for anglers to catch every year", said Hansbarger.

These channel cats are reproducing just fine in most of our waterways, but having a helping hand from our DNR in these smaller bodies of water is crucial to keep their numbers up.

Hansbarger explains.

"Kind of a benchmark is anything below 500 acres, we must maintain through stocking because the bass and bluegill predation is so great that it overwhelms the natural reproduction of the channel catfish. They may spawn and have young--but, because of the small body of water, they can't get away and flee from the predators".

These fish will make a lot of anglers happy across the Mountain State.

“Small impoundments are a great place for people to get started fishing, for young people, handicapped people to fish because access is easier", said Hansbarger.

Stay tuned, some larger catfish may be coming to a place near you soon.

"We usually have a press release that comes out in the spring time--keep your eye out for that", said Hansbarger.

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