Specimens of the invasive Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) have now grown large enough to reach the top of the food chain in James River, Virginia. A catfish weighing 102 lbs (46 kg) was caught from the river not long ago; the largest caught freshwater fish ever to be reported from Virginian waters.

30 years ago, Blue catfish was deliberately introduced to this U.S. river as a game fish. During recent years, the catfish population has grown explosively while many other fish species have decreased. An eight year old Blue catfish normally weigh a mere 4 lbs (1.8 kg), but as soon as it gets large enough to start catching other fish and devouring fully grown crabs, it begins putting on weight at a rapid pace and can gain as much as 10 lbs (4.5 kg) a year.

ictalurus furcatus 1 Virginia catfish boom
Blue Catfish – Ictalurus furcatus. Copyright www.jjphoto.dk

According to Bob Greenlee, a biologist with the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, scientists doing sampling used to get around 1,500 catfish in an hour in this river in the 1990s. Today, this number has increased to 6,000. “We have an invasive species that is taking over the ecosystem,” says Rob Latour, a marine biologist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary.