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Channel Catfish are widely distributed across North America and highly valued as a sport fish and for food. While most Channel Catfish fisheries are managed under liberal harvest regulations, the Red River of the North (Red River) in Manitoba, Canada is managed with restrictive harvest regulations to promote a trophy fishery. Two barriers (dams) are present on the main stem of the Red River and may fragment the population to some degree. My objectives were to: 1) analyze population dynamics of the trophy Channel Catfish population on the lower Red River, 2) compare population characteristics of Channel Catfish in selected reaches throughout the Red River in Manitoba, and 3) determine movement characteristics of Channel Catfish and the permeability of a dam on the lower Red River. We compared our results to the most recent studies on Channel Catfish in the Red River, and also to range-wide age, growth, and mortality statistics. Channel Catfish in the lower Red River commonly reached ages > 20, grew slowly, and had a low mortality rate. Trophy Channel Catfish were most abundant below the dam on the lower river. The size structure within the most upstream reaches we studied were predominantly comprised of small- and intermediate-sized Channel Catfish. We determined the dam is passable by large Channel Catfish (>600 mm), but may be an impediment to small Channel Catfish. My mark-recapture data indicated Channel Catfish can move long distances, where upstream movements > 500 kilometers were common for large Channel Catfish. This research provides insight into the age, growth, and mortality of a trophy fishery for Channel Catfish. We believe restrictive harvest regulations are adequately maintaining the desired age structure and size structure of Channel Catfish in the lower Red River and by consequence, sustaining one of the premier fisheries in North America.
Advisor: Mark A. Pegg