HOPEWELL, Va. (WFXR) — There is an effort underway to track the “Giants of the James.” The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has started a project to help manage blue catfish in the James River system.

Blue catfish can grow to enormous size, with some fish exceeding more than 100 pounds in weight and more than four feet in length. They are apex predators and feed heavily on gizzard shad. Blue catfish are the largest catfish species in North America. Natives of the Mississippi River Basin, the fish were introduced into the James 50 years ago to create a sport fishery that has grown into one of the best in the world.

A blue catfish caught from the James River just before being released

The DWR has tagged 40 blue catfish of varying sizes with an internal acoustic tag. The tag will allow fisheries biologists to track the movement of the fish and help the DWR better manage this valuable sportfishing resource.

The tagged fish also have a red external flag. Anglers who catch tagged blue catfish should record the three-digit tag identification number and report it to the DWR at the phone number on the tag. If anglers keep the fish, the DWR will collect the tag so it can be used again.

Blue catfish are a prime target species on the James River, especially in the tidal sections below Richmond.

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