Georgia’s Ogeechee River Faces a Flathead Catfish Invasion Threat!

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Ogeechee River
USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Georgia’s Ogeechee River has a new, unwelcome guest: the non-native flathead catfish. This news from the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) has set off alarms among nature lovers, as these fish could mess with the local ecosystem.

For a long time, the Ogeechee River, a peaceful waterway in Georgia, had no flathead catfish. But in December 2021, a fisherman found one. The WRD thought, “Maybe it’s just a lost fish from the Savannah River nearby.” But by August 2023, they found more – over a dozen, especially near Interstate Highway 95.

Joel Fleming, a fish expert at WRD, is worried. He says, “These flatheads? They’re like the schoolyard bullies of the river. They eat anything they can.” This is a big problem, especially for local favorites like the redbreast sunfish.

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Now, here’s the thing: flathead catfish are actually from Northwest Georgia. But they’ve been popping up in other rivers, probably because of human actions. The WRD has been trying to fix this. They took out a massive 64,000 flatheads from the Satilla River between 2007 and 2016. But as Tim Barrett from WRD says, “It’s like trying to catch smoke with your hands. We can’t get them all.”

So, the WRD is asking locals for help. If you’re fishing and catch a flathead, keep it and let the WRD know. They say, “We need everyone’s eyes on this.” Anglers are being advised not to release these catfish back into the water and to report any non-native flathead catches on the WRD website. “Public participation is crucial. We need eyes and ears on the ground,” emphasized a WRD representative.

What’s the big picture? Well, Georgia’s rivers are at a tipping point. But with everyone’s help, there’s hope that we can keep our waters balanced and thriving. Let’s work together and make a difference.

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