Stewart, DR, JM Long, and DE Shoup. 2016. Simulation Modeling to Explore the Effects of Length-Based Harvest Regulations for Ictalurus Fisheries. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 36:1190-1204. DOI: 10.1080/02755947.2016.1204391
Management of Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus and Channel Catfish I. punctatus for trophy production has recently become more common. Typically, trophy management is attempted with length-based regulations that allow for the moderate harvest of small fish but restrict the harvest of larger fish. However, the specific regulations used vary considerably across populations, and no modeling efforts have evaluated their effectiveness. We used simulation modeling to compare total yield, trophy biomass (Btrophy), and sustainability (spawning potential ratio [SPR] > 0.30) of Blue Catfish and Channel Catfish populations under three scenarios: (1) current regulation (typically a length-based trophy regulation), (2) the best-performing minimum length regulation (MLRbest), and (3) the best-performing length-based trophy catfish regulation (LTRbest; “best performing” was defined as the regulation that maximized yield, Btrophy, and sustainability). The Btrophy produced did not differ among the three scenarios. For each fishery, the MLRbest and LTRbest produced greater yield (>22% more) than the current regulation and maintained sustainability at higher finite exploitation rates (>0.30) than the current regulation. The MLRbest and LTRbest produced similar yields and SPRs for Channel Catfish and similar yields for Blue Catfish; however, the MLRbest for Blue Catfish produced more resilient fisheries (higher SPR) than the LTRbest. Overall, the variation in yield, Btrophy, and SPR among populations was greater than the variation among regulations applied to any given population, suggesting that population-specific regulations may be preferable to regulations applied to geographic regions. We conclude that LTRs are useful for improving catfish yield and maintaining sustainability without overly restricting harvest but are not effective at increasing the Btrophy of catfish.