Blue catfish is a hit at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus.
Since a recent purchasing agreement by state agencies made it possible to sell invasive blue catfish to state institutions, Cathy Liu and Erin Carney of the University of Maryland Extension have been working to develop public awareness about the safety and nutritional value of the fish.
Carney and Liu are also developing a fact sheet for consumer education, providing prepping and cooking instructions for safe and healthy consumption, and encouraging more Marylanders to assist in reducing invasive catfish populations in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Liu has worked with commercial fishers providing catfish and other seafood products and has examined levels of microbial contamination as well as safe processing and handling procedures. She says consumers are misinformed about the level of contaminants such as methyl mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in seafood, and that has created confusion around the health benefits of eating fish and other seafood products.
“Americans don’t consume enough seafood to begin with,” Liu said, “so they definitely aren’t eating enough to have any potential side effects from chemical contamination.”
Invasive blue catfish can cause environmental and economic degradation to native species. In September, the Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Departments of Agriculture and General Services, created a program allowing the sale of Maryland-harvested blue catfish to state institutions, including the University of Maryland.
UMD dining services was looking for new choices and healthy options to offer on campus, and the fact that serving catfish would be helping eliminate a destructive species from local waters made selecting blue catfish for the menu an easy choice.
“We were approached by the Wide Net Project about the increased and excessive catfish in the bay,” said Bart Hipple, assistant director of dining services at UMD. “They were aware that we were working on the sustainability of our operation and thought we might be a good partner in this.”
During the Fall 2018 semester, an estimated 4,810 pounds of blue catfish were served to UMD students in dining halls, in many different ways, said Hipple. “At the same time that we introduced the catfish, we also increased overall seafood options,” he said. “The catfish is very popular.”
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume at least eight ounces of seafood a week.
Complete information on safe consumption of seafood is available on the Maryland Department of Environment website.
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Fishing report
The 2019 blue crab winter dredge survey showed populations in the Chesapeake Bay are up approximately 60 percent, which means more crab feasts this season.
So far, anglers trolling in the upper bay region below the Brewerton Channel line are finding very slow fishing for larger striped bass. The west side of the bay tends to be stained, the east side is showing clearer conditions. White and chartreuse parachutes and bucktails have been the most common lures being used, rigged in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. The channel edge at Love Point has been the most popular place to troll.
Trolling for post-spawn stripers has improved as they exit the Choptank River and head south. Some will take their time and can be found wandering as far north as the Bloody Point area.
Some traditional channel edges that produce fish include Bloody Point, Gum Thickets, Buoy 84, Breezy Point, the False Channel, and the steep edge from R2 south past the inside of the CP Buoy.
Fishing for white perch is good in the tidal rivers and creeks throughout the region. The perch are now holding in their normal summer habitat. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworms near docks and piers or sunken structure is one of the better ways to catch them. In the early morning and evening hours casting small spinners, spinnerbaits, or small rattle traps near shoreline structure is a fun way to catch them. Fallen tree tops, submerged rocks, or prominent points are all good places to fish.
Catfish can be found in all of the tidal rivers. Salinity values are so low in the Chesapeake that they are being caught out in the bay also. Fresh cut bait such as white perch makes a good bait, but chicken breast, chicken livers, or nightcrawlers work well also. Northern snakeheads are showing up in the upper reaches of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks with increasing abundance and can be caught on live minnows under a bobber or a variety of lures.
On the freshwater scene, largemouth bass are in post-spawn activity. The females are actively feeding to build up lost body stores from the spawning process. Transition areas of slightly deeper water outside the shallower spawning beds are a good place to look for them. Casting soft plastics, small crankbaits, jerkbaits and grubs in these areas near sunken cover is a good bet. Bass often move in the shallower grassy areas in the mornings and evenings and a variety of topwater lures are a good choice when fishing there.
On the Atlantic Coast, bluefish have been moving in and out of the surf line recently and can be caught on cut bait or finger mullet. A few kingfish are also being caught on bloodworm baits. Fishing for tautog on the wreck and reef sites off Ocean City remains good. Sea bass season opens on May 15. The minimum size for black sea bass is 12.5 inches with a 15 fish-per-day creel limit. Offshore, the first bluefin tuna has been reeled in.


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