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Abstract

Spring migrations of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) into the Kings, Mulberry and Buffalo rivers, Arkansas, were compared to determine adult catfish migration into a warm water river that flows into a cold tailwater. The Buffalo River flows into a cold tailwater reach of the White River and supports a sparse channel catfish population compared to similar rivers in the region that do not flow into cold tailwaters. This is an important factor because many recent studies have demonstrated that channel catfish make pre-spawning migrations into tributary streams and may contribute significantly to tributary populations. To assess channel catfish migration, hoop nets were deployed at the confluence of the three rivers and fished continuously from 29 March to 22 April1992, with total catches used as an index of the relative number of fish migrating into each river. Movements of channel catfish into the three rivers were observed throughout April; however, the relative number migrating into the Buffalo River (n=33) was significantly less than the Kings (n=169) or Mulberry (n=263) Rivers. Water temperature differed significantly between the White and Buffalo Rivers during the sampling period, but did not differ between the Kings or Mulberry, and their respective confluence. Although cold, White River tailwaters do not totally inhibit overwintering and migration of adult channel catfish into the Buffalo River, reduced numbers of migratory catfish may partially account for the river's low reproductive output and sparse adult population.

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