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Distribution, movements and habitat use of channel catfish in a river with multiple low‐head dams

Butler, S. E., Wahl, D. H.
River research and applications 2011 v.27 no.10 pp. 1182-1191
Ictalurus punctatus, dams (hydrology), habitats, lotic systems, migratory behavior, overwintering, radio telemetry, rivers, spring, summer, winter, Illinois
Channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus is a highly mobile species and is known to make extensive seasonal movements in lotic systems. Dams have been suggested to detrimentally affect this species, although abundant channel catfish populations are known to occur in many fragmented rivers. To examine factors that allow channel catfish to persist in impounded rivers, we assessed relative abundance of channel catfish in three impounded and three flowing sites of the Fox River, Illinois, USA. Radiotelemetry was used to determine movement and habitat use patterns of channel catfish among flowing and impounded areas. Relative abundance of channel catfish was consistently higher at flowing sites than at impounded sites during summer. Several radio‐tagged channel catfish moved downstream into impounded areas in fall, and all tagged individuals were found in impounded areas during winter. The majority of tagged channel catfish moved upstream into flowing areas during spring. Channel catfish used a wide range of depths (0.28–2.60 m), and were always found in current velocities less than 0.50 m s−1. They selected most strongly for coarse substrates, but were infrequently found near cover. Although low‐head dams restrict the movements of channel catfish, impounded areas appear to provide overwintering habitats that may eliminate the need for seasonal long‐distance movements. Small run‐of‐river impoundments, however, may contain unsuitable conditions for channel catfish during other seasons.