Low Apparent Survival and Heterogeneous Movement Patterns of Invasive Blue Catfish in a Coastal River
Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus were purposefully introduced into freshwater tributaries to Chesapeake Bay in the past, and populations have subsequently spread to new areas, negatively impacting native communities and causing concern for resource managers. To aid development of management strategies, we implemented a multiyear (2012–2015) tagging study of invasive Blue Catfish in a 40-km stretch of the Potomac River to estimate survival and assess movement patterns. Blue Catfish (N = 1,237) were captured by electrofishing and double-tagged to allow us to estimate tag retention rates; we used reward tags to increase reporting rates. Recaptured fish (N = 104; 8.4% return rate) were at large for between 2 and 1,208 d. Tag retention rates were 0.88 (SE = 0.045) after 1 year and declined to 0.31 (SE = 0.107) after 2.7 years. The mean minimum distance moved by fish was 24.1 km (range = 0.0–112.6 km). Most (63%) fish displayed downriver movements, but distance moved was unrelated to fish size or days at large. Greater distances were observed among fish that moved downriver (34.4 km) than those that moved upriver (6.7 km). These results suggest high variability in movement behaviors for Blue Catfish inhabiting the tidal Potomac River from freshwater reaches to estuarine habitats. We estimated an annual apparent survival rate of 0.56 (SE = 0.057; Brownie tag-return model) across the study period. This survival rate is lower than survival rates reported from their native range. Long-distance movements of Blue Catfish in the Potomac River indicate that robust, large-scale control measures will be needed to reduce population abundance and minimize negative impacts of this species on native communities.