Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Charle R. Berry, Jr.


Concerns about the sustainability of catfish populations that produce large fish have increased because of abundant media images of large catfish and improvements in specialized fishing equipment. This study will help biologists address these concerns by providing important information about the channel catfish lctalurus punctarus and flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris populations of the James and Big Sioux rivers and by assessing the effectiveness of various gears used to sample catfish. I compared the number of channel catfish and flathead catfish caught on trotlines by riverine habitat type, hook type, and bait type along with electrofishing and different hoop net combinations. All gear comparisons were based on 96 hoop net sets and 96 trotline sets split equally between two baiting options and 79.6 hours of electrofishing effort. Soybean baited hoop nets caught 736 channel catfish compared to 108 channel catfish caught in unbaited hoop nets. Flathead catfish were caught most readily by low-pulsed DC electrofishing and live-baited trotlines. More channel catfish (177) than flathead catfish (4) were caught on trotlines baited with cut common carp Cyprinus carpio, especially when trotlines were set in runs with moderate amounts of woody debris and over predominantly silt substrates. More flathead catfish (82) than channel catfish (65) were caught on trotlines baited with live black bullheads Ameiurus melas, especially if set along river bends with depths > l m and with complex woody debris. Sea-circle hooks caught 70 catfish compared to 136 catfish that were caught on O'Shaughnessy style hooks and 122 catfish caught on modified circle hooks. The best sampling gears for collecting channel catfish in South Dakota rivers were soybean baited hoop nets, but for flathead catfish a combination of electro fishing and live baited trotlines was most effective. Catfish populations of both the Big Sioux and James rivers showed distinct differences. Stock length and longer catch per unit effort estimates (CPUE-S) for Big Sioux River channel catfish (CPUE-S = 5/net-night) were lower than estimates for James River channel catfish (CPUE-S = 10/net-night). Flathead catfish relative abundance was similar between rivers for livebait trotlines (Big Sioux River CPUE-S = 0.5/trotline-night, James River CPUE-S = 1.1/trotline-night). The Big Sioux River and James River catfish populations exhibited similar total mortality. However, growth was slower and condition for catfish longer than memorable length was less for the Big Sioux River when compared to the James River. Channel catfish were 4.5 times as common as flathead catfish in the James River but both channel and flathead catfish grew rapidly and had relative weight values around the 75th percentile, when compared to other rivers. Cohort strength was correlated with mean annual discharge for both rivers and both flathead and channel catfish populations showed similar trends. The catfish populations of the Big Sioux and James rivers have benefited from eight years of flows above historical averages, thus providing support for the flood pulse theory. Biological, sociological and hydrological conditions currently exist to develop the James River into a trophy catfish fishery.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Catfishes--James River (N.D. and S.D.)
Catfishes--Big Sioux River (S.D. and Iowa)
Fish populations--South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (pages 64-68)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright 2001 John Aterburn. All rights reserved.