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Angler Catches State Record Blue Catfish In The Potomac River

Shawn Wetzel, 27 of Orrtana, Pennsylvania, displays the Maryland record, 80-pound, 12-ounce blue catfish he caught on February 23 in the Potomac River near Fort Washington

Fort Washington, Md. (March 12, 2012) - Shawn Wetzel, 27 of Orrtana, Pennsylvania, caught a whopping 80-pound, 12-ounce blue catfish on February 23 in the Potomac River near Fort Washington. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed that the blue catfish was a new State record, annihilating the previous record holder by 13 pounds.

“The rod went down hard, and I knew it was something big,” said Wetzell. “At one point, I was on my knees trying to lift the fish, and my back was burning.”

The previous record fish weighed just over 67 pounds and was caught in 2008 by Ron Lewis in the Potomac not far from where Wetzel caught his fish.

Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi River Valley and were introduced to the James and Rappahannock Rivers in the 1970s. Since then, the fish have reproduced and spread throughout the tidal Potomac River system. Flathead catfish, another non-native invasive species, and blue catfish have subsequently turned up in the Nanticoke, Susquehanna and Northeast Rivers, Upper Chesapeake Bay and other waters.

“We recognize the enthusiasm and economic impact of anglers in search of record catfish,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director, Tom O’Connell. “However, we don’t want to encourage the development and spread of this species. As top predators, they are a serious threat to native species, which provide ecological and economic benefits to the region.”

Blue and flathead catfish are invasive, non-native species that are long-lived, fast growing and opportunistic feeders. Consequently, State and Federal fisheries managers are concerned about their affect on the ecosystem, and are working together to develop strategies to mitigate their impact.

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Team, which includes representatives from Virginia, Maryland, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, District of Columbia, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service, and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, recently adopted a Chesapeake Bay blue and flathead catfish policy to reduce these catfish populations and to stem their spread. The Chesapeake Bay Program recently issued a news release on this new policy in conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week - chesapeakebay.net/blog/post/scientists_to_develop_management_plan_for_invasive_blue_and_flathead_catfis

Last August, The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved a resolution expressing concern about the impacts of blue and flathead catfish to Atlantic coast migratory fish species - asmfc.org.

Anglers should know that it is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish for the purpose of introduction into another body of water. Additionally, DNR officials are asking anglers to remove and kill any blue and flathead catfish that they catch. This is a fishery where the practice of catch and release is discouraged by resource managers.

To stay up-to-date on regulatory proposals and other important DNR Fisheries topics, subscribe to the DNR Fisheries Email list by visiting dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/emailcontact.asp

To learn more about invasive, non-native species and to see a list of species prohibited from transport go to dnr.maryland.gov/invasives.

Keep up with DNR fisheries information through Twitter (@MDDNRFISH) and on Facebook facebook.com/MDDNRFisheriesService.


   March 12, 2012

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell
jdavidsburg@dnr.state.md.us

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov