Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) staff recently captured non-native flathead catfish while sampling in the Ogeechee River.
WRD staff conducts annual catfish sampling in coastal rivers to monitor native species and detect any potential non-native species invasions. In December 2021, a single flathead was caught by a commercial fisherman. Until this commercial catch, no flatheads had been reported in the Ogeechee.
Initially, hopes were that this was a single, isolated fish that made its way from the nearby Savannah River. In response, WRD increased targeted flathead sampling efforts to determine if the species had spread further. Although sampled extensively in 2021 and 2022, no additional flatheads were found in the Ogeechee River.
However, in August 2023, WRD staff captured the first flathead in directed sampling efforts. Since this collection, over a dozen individual fish have been captured and removed. Recent captures have occurred in a relatively short segment of the river above Interstate Highway 95. WRD staff will continue to conduct extensive sampling efforts in, and around, this portion of the Ogeechee.
Flathead catfish are native to Northwest Georgia drainages but have established reproducing populations in several Atlantic drainages in Georgia, including the Satilla, Altamaha, and Savannah Rivers.
Flatheads can pose a significant ecological risk when introduced into new waterbodies, primarily through predation on native species. As such, WRD officials are actively seeking the help of the public to maximize efforts to protect our native species.
Anglers can greatly aid in this effort by not moving or releasing fish into waterbodies in which they are not native. Additionally, anglers are reminded to harvest and report any non-native flatheads they may capture in the Ogeechee River.
For more information on flathead catfish and other invasive species, visit GeorgiaWildlife.com/ans.