The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission has proposed new regulations establishing statewide limits on trophy catfish, and proposed tightening existing regulations on the commercial harvest of large catfish and their use by pay lakes. Commission members, at their recent quarterly meeting, also approved three wildlife studies of bears, bobcats and otters.
Most commission actions must be approved by legislators before they become law.
A proposal approved by the commission would limit anglers to one trophy catfish of each species a day. This trophy regulation, already in place on the Ohio River, would expand statewide. Anglers could keep one blue and one flathead catfish 35 inches or longer, and one channel catfish 28 inches or longer each day. Anglers could still keep an unlimited number of catfish shorter than trophy length, except on waters with special regulations for catfish.
The new trophy fish limits would also apply to anglers who hand grab, or “noodle” catfish, except where special regulations apply.
The proposals are part of an effort to provide greater protection for trophy catfish by restricting their harvest. A 2013 survey of catfish anglers in the state showed that 75 percent would not oppose stricter regulations on trophy catfish.
As part of the protective effort, commission members also proposed revising several regulations governing the commercial harvest of catfish from the Ohio River. These include:
• Commercial fishing vessels on the Ohio River shall not have more than the daily harvest limit of trophy catfish in possession while on the water or trailering their boat on a ramp.
• If more than two commercial anglers are on board a vessel, that vessel may only have a maximum of two daily creel limits for trophy catfish.
• The number of free trophy catfish harvest permits for the Ohio River from Cannelton Lock and Dam (upstream of Owensboro in Hancock County) to the confluence of the Mississippi River will be lowered to 15 permits annually.
New regulations proposed for pay lakes include:
• Signs posted at all pay lakes informing anglers of where the catfish were obtained and any associated consumptive warnings.
• Requiring pay lakes to keep purchase records on fish received from private hatcheries for three years.
• Requiring pay lakes to keep detailed records on catfish obtained from public waters, including fish origin, for three years. Pay lakes could stock trophy catfish three times a year, but limit stocking to no more than 750 pounds of fish per acre.
• Capping the number of pay lakes that receive catfish from public waters at 35. Existing pay lakes beyond this number could continue operations as long as they continued buying their license.
In other business before the commission, members approved studies to gauge the abundance of river otters and bobcats in Kentucky; and one to determine the density of black bears around the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in southern Kentucky.
The next Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting will be held in December. Check online at fw.ky.gov for dates, times, locations and agendas. Commission meetings are open for the public.