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Driftwood Outdoors: Freeing exotic fish illegal, a danger

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DURING my college days at Purdue University, I kept a smallmouth bass in a 55-gallon aquarium. His name was Walter. I caught him in Wildcat Creek just east of Lafayette the summer after my sophomore year.

Walter moved numerous times and was a good pet. At the end of my senior year, though, I was headed to Denver, and taking Walter along just didn’t seem feasible. So, unbeknownst to me at the time, I broke the law and put Walter back in the same spot I had caught him two years earlier.

Walter was a native. He belonged in Wildcat Creek, so putting him back wasn’t something I thought would be an issue. In reality, it is against the law to stock any fish into an Indiana body of water without a permit. What would have really been bad is if Walter had not been a native. Releasing exotic species in nonnative waters can devastate an ecosystem.


So don’t do it. Simple enough?

Recently, Mike Durfee of Portage caught an 8-pound, exotic Amazonian catfish, commonly known as a redtail catfish, out of Lake Michigan. Redtail catfish are native to South America’s Amazon River system. They are a popular aquarium fish in the United States. There is little to no chance the catfish wound up in the Lake Michigan by accident.

Someone dumped it there.

Even though it is believed that the exotic cat could not survive the cold water of Lake Michigan in the winter, it could have survived if it located in one of the warm-water discharge areas located along the industrial coast.

The International Game Fish Association world-record redtail catfish was caught in 2010 on the Amazon River and weighed more than 123 pounds. You can imagine the damage thousands of hundred-pound catfish could do to the native populations of popular game fish like perch, smallmouth bass and salmon.

In Indiana, it is illegal to release aquarium fish into public waters. In fact, like I stated earlier, it is illegal to stock any fish in Indiana public water without a fish-stocking permit. If you have an unwanted aquarium fish, and no longer want it, you must find another way to get rid of it besides releasing it into the wild.

Contact local retailers who may take it or put you in contact with another aquarium enthusiast.

Sightings and reports of exotic species should be reported to the DNR through the online reporting or by calling 1-866-NO EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684).


See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler can be reached at driftwood

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