Posts belonging to Category Catfish Conservation

A trending decline in trophy catfish populations in Kentucky

I’ve caught my fair share of trophy size catfish over the past 10 years and I am thankful for every experience I have had, plus I have enjoyed helping others in their journey to catch some big cat fish too. It’s great to see folks to succeed and catch their first huge Monster.

But there is an ongoing issue with Kentucky’s catfish regulations that is really concerning me and many other sportsman to the point of desperation. I believe if the issue isn’t addressed quickly many future new comers joining the sport may not get the chance to find out what it is like to catch a trophy catfish.

If you didn’t know, bluecats and flathead catfish can grow to weights in the triple digits with the world record currently being 143 lbs. with that being said in recent years these trophy cats have not only become popular with sport cat fisherman, they have also attracted the pay pond industry which had made the demand for these big cats overwhelming which brings me to the main issue of this article, the Kentucky catfish regulations.

What are the regulations you ask?

There are no regulations for catfish in Kentucky.

That is right, there are no regulations in Kentucky to protect the trophy cats the swim in our natural water ways.
Meaning, you can catch as many catfish as you want and any size you want.

You can keep a few for supper, you can keep 100 for a fish fry or you can set trot lines or hoop nets and catch and keep 7000 lbs of trophy size cats only to sell to the pay ponds and this is perfectly legal to do. And this has really created high tensions among the sport anglers, the pay pond industry and commercial fisherman, as the sport fish anglers who are fishing the Ohio River is seeing huge declines in the trophy catfish population do to this over exploitation of this unregulated resource.

My quick Research indicates there are well over 200 pay ponds in the Ohio valley region, probably more, even if just a quarter of the establishments buy 15,000 lbs of trophy cats from the commercial fisherman as indicated by one of the main operations in the region, then that is 750,000 lbs of targeted trophy catfish taken from the Ohio river to supply the pay pond demand.

How has one of our states largest big game species slipped through the cracks, it’s surprising to me because I know the KDWR is well known for their other various resource protection projects such as the sturgeon and alligator gar. Folks think about this, some of these catfish can grow and weigh as much as a one year old Buck and that is a resource that should be enjoyed but protected.

Many surrounding states have already adopted a 34 inch law to help protect their trophy size cats including Alabama and Tennessee which prior to the new law, these states were also targets for the commercial fisherman to catch big numbers of trophy size cats for the pay pond industry however they have recovered from this greatly since the law went into effect.Kentucky catfish regulations

It’s ironic that the state of Ohio has catfish regulations and does not allow commercial fishing, but is still in the center of all this controversy because of the numerous pay ponds in Ohio who purchase these trophy cats from out of state waters.

West Virginia has adopted length and creel regulations and does not allow commercial fishing and in my opinion, is now leading our region in trophy catfish growth in the Ohio river, and I predict in the next five years will be one of the best trophy waters in the United States.catfish regulations

I have talked with many my fellow anglers up and down the Ohio River valley system from West Virginia to Illinois and the consensus seems to be consistence with everyone.

Where have the big fish gone? Or have we all just suddenly forgotten how to fish?

How long can we afford to ignore what happening to our rivers throughout the Ohio valley? Catfishing has become popular in all aspects of the sport and we certainly understand that some folks don’t have access to the big rivers, thus they go for some action at the pay lakes. But I don’t think we can afford to continue to supply the pay lakes demand, without depleting our natural resources from within the Ohio River. If you are a sportsman and believe in preserving a huge Kentucky resource, we would appreciate your support.

What can you do to help?

There is a petition page on that you can sign if you’d like to support this cause. Further, if you feel strongly about this, let your KDFWR or State representative know that you support regulations to protect large catfish. Also you can keep up with our updates and progress here at and you can also help by becoming a member of the Ohio Valley Catfishing federation who has teamed up with the Kentucky League of sportsman to help present our concerns.
catfishing regulations

For more information on how you can help you can contact Steve Douglas at 502-510-0275 or Aaron Wheatley at 270-993-3733.

As sportsmen, we are hopeful that the powers that be will react to our call to action and protect this resource. It would be a shame for the mighty Ohio River that borders our Kentucky banks to not reclaim its position as one of the top cat fisheries in the nation.

Let us be clear though, our mission is not to stop all commercial fishing for catfish in Kentucky. We are just asking for reasonable regulations and enforcement to protect a fishery that should continue to grow in popularity, if allowed to reach its full potential.

Steve Douglas

A Catfish Conservation Alert

How long can we afford to ignore what happening to our rivers throughout Indiana and Kentucky. As it stands right now, there are no size limits or creel limits in Kentucky and this means you can catch and keep as many 40-100 lbers you like.

This trend has been going on for several years now as the pay lakes have been doing some major promotion advertising huge catfish. Catfishing has become popular in all aspects of the sport and i totally understand that some folks don’t have access to the big rivers, thus they go for some action at the pay lakes. But I don’t think we can afford to continue to supply the pay lakes demand, without depleting our natural resources form the KY and IN rivers, this issue also goes deeper than just KY and IN though, other states have the same issue and if the demand is there, commercial fisherman will travel to permitting states to collect these trophies.

Asia carp and trophy size catfish

Due to their large size, ravenous appetite, and rapid rate of reproduction, Asian carp pose a significant threat to Kentucky’s rivers ecosystem by consuming large quantities of phytoplankton and competing with native fish for habitat.

Asian carp can grow to an average of four feet and 100 pounds, and can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton per day.

Carp have shown an affinity for becoming the dominant large fish species over more desirable native species or established fish that are recreationally and economically important. Asian carp aggressively out-compete and eventually displace native fish altogether.

It is said that the asian carp have no natural predators and the ability to produce 2.2 million eggs, the Asian carp could devastate our natural water ways.

How ever the video below shows that they indeed have a strong Kentucky native species predator within our water ways which is blue catfish and flat head catfish, fish that also have the potential to grow over 100LBs and could help control the spread of asian carp. But if Kentucky is allowing the trophy catfish to keep being removed to supply out of state paylakes then it seems we are loosing the control.

The video i found today that show the blue catfish that feeds on invasive species that kentucky and other states are fighting.

The Asian carp continue to move into our rivers when barges and boats move through the locks as our trophy size native predator continues to be extracted at alarming rates to supply the demand for pay lakes. The carp compete with the shad for plankton which is reducing the population of sport fish of all kinds. Sportsmen believe crappie and sport fish are declining thus reducing the tourism dollars for Kentucky.

While there is a great deal of political upheaval in Kentucky regarding the management of the Department of Fish & Wildlife the issue of trophy catfish and Asian carp should not get lost in the midst of political strife.

I think if this going to work for both parties, the pay lake owners along with the pay lake goers should practice some sort of conservation efforts to help insure that the trophy size catfish population stays strong in our natural water ways. Anglers that fish our natural water ways are already aware of the conservation issues and are taking steps to improve it. But it’s going to take everybody’s cooperation with the conservation efforts to make sure we keep our states natural water ways strong.

If you would like to help get Kentucky catfishing regulations changed go HERE and sign the petition.