Wildlife officials are urging anglers to catch as many invasive "ugly a*s" catfish as possible as fears grow they could become dominant 'apex predators'.
Flathead catfish are invading the Ogeechee River in the US state of Georgia and worry is growing after a sample found 12 of the non native fish in a small stretch of the river, leading The Georgia Department of Natural Resources to urge anglers to catch them without returning them to the water.
The huge fish can grow to well over 100 pounds, and as of Monday (September 25), 20 or so were already yanked from the waters of the Ogeechee. One that was removed by a two-person crew was longer than 38 inches.
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"They are going to be one of the apex predators around every system once they establish those populations," Wildlife Resources biologist Joel Fleming told The Telegraph of Macon. "If they can fit it in their mouth, they're going to eat it."
A commercial fisherman caught a single flathead in the river in December 2021 but nothing was heard of them until authorities sampled a stretch in recent weeks.
Teams are now using electrical current to stun the fish in the water.
"Staff have monitored the river and hoped it was a lone occurrence," the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said.
"Unfortunately, in August 2023, flathead catfish were captured during sampling efforts. Since then, over a dozen have been removed from the Ogeechee."
But Tim Barrett, coastal region fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources, said once they get in they can never be taken out.
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"It's just physically impossible to take them all out," he said.
The organisation worries that flatheads can pose a significant ecological risk when introduced into new waterbodies, primarily through "predation on native species."
State officials know all too well how bad the issue can become after they removed 64,000 flathead catfish from the Satilla river between 2007 and 2016.
The fish are a delicacy for some, and seen as monsters by others. Tyler Alcala wrote on X (formerly Twitter): "The flathead catfish is one ugly ass fish."
A second person added simply: "Flathead catfish are ugly."
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