By Katie Sinclair
Ever wonder what a catfish eats? The blue catfish, invasive to the Chesapeake, is not a picky eater.
This voracious predator eats pretty much anything that can fit in its mouth. By digging into their stomachs, a process vaguely reminiscent of high school biology classes, researchers can figure out the impact this species has on the ecosystem.
In order to get some fresh catfish stomachs, researchers working in the Fish and Invertebrate Lab at SERC set up a “Gon’ fishing” sign and hit the field.
Using a technique known as “electrofishing,” researchers stun the fish with electric currents in the water and collect them from several sites along the Chesapeake and rivers that feed into the Bay. Once the fish are caught, they place them into a cooler. The frozen fish are then identified by species, weighed and measured. Each fish varies tremendously: From a few ounces to over 10 lbs., a wide range of maturities and sizes are represented.
The ecologists then remove the fish’s stomach, taking great care to keep it intact. (Though frozen, the contents of a fish’s lower intestines tend to have a rather unpleasant smell). As fishermen know, gutting catfish can get messy, especially when the interns get involved.