OLDTOWN — The Maryland Inland Fisheries Service has taken advantage of local, late-night catfish tournaments conducted on the Potomac River and its North Branch this summer, sending personnel to the events to measure channel cats, determine catch rates and get feedback from anglers about their favorite pastime.

“It’s working out well,” said John Mullican, a fishery biologist whose primary responsibility is the river. “We’ve had relationships with bass tournaments in the past, getting data about the fish and the anglers, but it’s rare to get an opportunity to learn about catfish and catfishermen.”

Tournament organizer Mike Cornachia contacted the agency about the tournaments, sparking interest.

“We meet in the evening, everybody goes fishing and we return hours later,” Cornachia said. “Anglers bring back just one channel catfish apiece, their largest of the night, to see if they won that tournament. We turn everything else back.”

Mullican, with help from Fishery Technician Josh Henesy, measure the fish and determine how many anglers fished and for how long.

By recording the number of other channel cats caught that night, a catch rate is determined.

Mullican calls the channel catfish population in the river “very good.”

“Anglers seem to be catching more channel cats in the mid-20-inch range than they did five years ago they tell us,” Mullican said.

Cornachia said the next tournament will be Sept. 13 with anglers meeting at Battie Mixon in Oldtown at 5 p.m. and returning with fish at midnight.

“We hold tournaments anywhere from Cumberland to Bond’s Landing,” Cornachia said.

“The most recent tournament we had 71 people fishing.”

Contact Outdoor Editor Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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