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Future Variety Might Replace Channel Cats
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish is not a new agricultural commodity to Mississippi, but research is underway on a new variety that may replace channel catfish as king of the farm ponds.
As a relatively new and growing industry in East Mississippi, catfish has emerged as a viable economic entity in the hilly Blackland Prairie region of the state. For the last 10 years, East Mississippi production has been primarily in Kemper, Noxubee, Lowndes, Clay, Monroe and Chickasaw counties, but there were no local suppliers of fingerlings.
Anita Kelly, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station fisheries biologist at Mississippi State University, is investigating ways to increase production so Mississippi producers can have higher yields from each harvest.
Most farms have been stocking their ponds with channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) due to its hardiness, captive spawning ease and flavor. Many producers are now eyeing the potential of blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) because of its more rapid growth and resistance to channel catfish virus and enteric septecia. Blues are larger and have more meat, smaller heads and a higher dress-out, or edible, percentage.
"Getting the two species to spawn naturally is difficult, time-consuming, expensive and not very effective. I'm looking for easier methods to crossbreed the two. Developing a more effective technique to cross the two would help increase production in the Blackland Prairie area," Kelly said.
Since producers have been getting a 30 to 50 percent average success rate with spawning, they are having to stock more brood fish to get fingerlings, which means they need larger holding areas and are using more feed, Kelly said.
Kelly is investigating several avenues to increase the spawning rates, such as implanting brood stock with the hormone gonadatropins to encourage spawning, researching hormone levels and studying different reproductive strategies.
"We tested hormone implants in fish this spring, but the longer, cooler spring weather caused greater spawning naturally, which interfered with our research efforts," Kelly said.
This research is still in the infancy stage, but it shows great promise in helping further East Mississippi catfish production, Kelly said.
Contact: Anita Kelly, (662) 325-3220