Back in June 1998, a breakthrough was made in the catfishing world. That year the First International Catfish Symposium was formed, referred to as “Catfish 2000”. Catfish 2000 was a meeting of the minds in Davenport, Iowa. It consisted of the finest professors, biologists, fisherman, and conservationists involved with the species. The knowledge that was shared at that meeting and the published proceedings has served as the basis of our current understanding of the entire species. For the next decade, the findings from that Symposium had been referenced and studied by nearly everyone involved in the sport of catfishing. As is so often the case in all areas of science, great advancements had been made over the course of twelve years. A large amount of studies had been performed and new information was now available for everyone in the catfish world.
We at Montana Cats, like so many others, knew that a new Symposium could very well be just around the corner. It was announced in the fall of 2009 that the 2nd International Catfish Symposium, Catfish 2010, would be coming to St. Louis, Missouri in June. In the months after the announcement, the anticipation began to build on what would be included at the Symposium. Even the legendary Bill Dance was excited about it, inviting everyone to the event.. This year’s addition would include a catfish tournament, hosted by Bass Pro Big Cat Quest, presentations from several continents covering conservation, ecology, and the management of catfish fisheries. We knew it was important for us to be there. The organization was gracefully willing to handle my expenses and send me down as the representative. I couldn’t be more grateful and excited at the same time.
The Big Cat Quest tournament, which was to be held Saturday, June 19th, was cancelled due to high water conditions, thankfully that was the only disappointment of the entire trip. I arrived on that Saturday night and could hardly contain the excitement. Montana Fish and Game sent one of their own down to the meeting as well. Mike Ruggles, FWP region 5 fisheries biologist, was there to take in all of the technical sessions and oral presentations. Mike is a great guy and it was nice to see a familiar face down in St. Louis showing an interest in catfish.
The main festivities got underway on Sunday, June 20th with a social and continental breakfast held in the Millennium Hotel. At this time, I noticed that there were an impressive number of people at the Symposium; however, I was one of the few people representing the anglers. This was fine by me and I was ready to soak up as much knowledge as I could from everyone involved. Following the breakfast, it was time for the welcoming session and the Plenary Speakers to take the platform. I had been looking forward to the Plenary Session for weeks, as it included two individuals I had the upmost respect for. Those individuals were Steve Quinn, a senior editor for In-Fisherman magazine and Zeb Hogan, the host of the popular TV show Monster Fish on the national geographic channel. Listening to Steve, Zeb, Donald Jackson, and Jonathan Ambruster spend three hours talking about catfish was a great way to get things kicked off in St. Louis. Technical sessions and oral presentations would take place every twenty minutes for the next five hours. This particular day offered two separate choices every twenty minutes. I spent time observing presentations on the Missouri River Catfish, madtom studies, Mississippi River, and many channel catfish studies. An interesting oral presentation was made on the channel catfish populations, management, and angler use on the Missouri River Reservoirs, including Fort Peck. They had limited research on the two northernmost reservoirs, however, but did mention our extraordinary slow growth rates. Sunday came to a close with the Poster and Trade Show Social. The Poster display gave us the opportunity to see many of the studies in visual form and get an idea on what it all means. The Trade Show included many catfish venders and plenty of product displays in the area of fish management. I enjoyed talking catfishing at this time with Jeff Williams, the owner and founder of Team Catfish.
Day three was the continuation of Technical Sessions and Oral Presentations, once again in twenty-minute segments, however, the afternoon sessions were offered as “stand alone”. I particularly enjoyed the presentations on catfish movement, growth rates, and the methods used to determine the age of channels, flatheads, and blues. I had a serious interest in the study that was done on the channel catfish population in the North Platte River in Western Nebraska. I felt it was relative to the issues we are dealing with in our area rivers. Tuesday came to a close with the Thank You St. Louis Barbecue Dinner and Social. This was a great time to get to know a lot of the others that had made the trip. I enjoyed my talks with Steve Quinn, Zeb Hogan, and Red River fisheries biologist Lynn Schlueter (North Dakota). A lot of very knowledgeable individuals were in attendance and it was truly an educational experience for myself.
Day four was a half-day, and a culmination of the event. With more presentations taking place, I took interest in the baited hoop net sampling studies on channel cats. I also enjoyed the comparison between electrofishing and experimental gill netting on reservoir blue cats. The 2nd International Catfish Symposium came to a close just before the noon hour with the concluding remarks and adjournment. I can’t say enough about the fine people and the hospitality that surrounded this event. A big thank you should go out to the North Central Division Ictalurid Technical Committee and the Southern Division Catfish Management Technical Committee of the American Fisheries Society as they co-hosted “Catfish 2010”. I am already looking forward to the 3rd Annual Symposium, which is sure to come next decade.
Please enjoy the pictures and the web links below pertaining to this symposium.
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