Catfish in the Pond

Catfish in the Pond

When we were at the very beginning of putting the pond together, my son and I went to the local Laguna (like a very slow creek) to net some mosquito fish for the pond. While there we saw what at first we thought was a turtle, but upon closer examination we saw it wasn't a turtle's back but a whole school of tiny (less than 1inch) black catfish! They were all clustered together so tightly that they appeared to move as one entity. Our son couldn't resist: with one swoop of the net we had ~30! We brought them back and put them into the pond, thinking it would be great fun to watch them there. But slowly their number dwindled and when we put in the black liner we no longer saw them and feared they had all perished.

That was in July of 1996. I am writing this on September 6, 1997 and we just saw one!!!!! It is about 5 inches long now and still all dark. We find it hard to believe that it has been alive in the pond which is ~18X24 feet for over a year and we hadn't seen it, despite the pond's being right outside our kitchen window and it's frequently being entered for our cooling or maintenance. Quite a discovery!

'98 update: In June, I was out by the pond and saw the catfish again.....a year after our last sighting! It is now ~7" long and fat!

'98, 2nd update: On July 18, I was looking out at the pond, and thinking that I needed to inquire of a biologist as to whether a catfish that size might be a serious predator on dragonfly nymph, as we've had a dramatic decrease this year in the number of dragonflies emerging from the pond. I couldn't believe my eyes when I suddenly saw TWO smaller catfish swim out into sight! I thought, oh no, although these are also black on top, they are smaller (~4" & 5" each), than the one I'd seen earlier so there must be THREE! And in a minute the 3rd larger one, showed up! OH MY!

August '98 ENDING(???): After pondering (yes, a bad pun) the situation for a week or so, I came to the conclusion that I would have to choose between catfish and dragonflies/beetles/other critters whose nymph live along the bottom (thus where they get eaten by catfish). I decided since I love dragonflies so, the catfish would have to go! So I went CATFISHING!!! I put some bologna on a small hook and went fishing. Yes, they were biting! Heck, I thought I had 3 in the pond and when the 3rd one was caught and more seemed to be nibbling on the bait, I called my 13 yr. old neighbor Susan over and she caught 5 more the first day before we accidentally caught one of my 2 goldfish! Goldfish don't eat meat so I wasn't expecting this to happen. But I guess it was curious! Luckily my husband was able to get the hook out and it's fine. (See the photo here where Orfie the curious Goldfish watches Susan fishing!) We knew there was at least one left after that first day because he kept stealing the bait. All the ones we caught were only about 4" long. I wondered how many more there were. We released the survivors (& the few who died) back into the local Laguna from whence they had come at dusk the first nite.

At this point, we were having fun calling it a catfish derby! I invited Susan to come to fish again the next day. I wish you could have seen us that day: We worked it out so we could fish in the pond from INSIDE the house using my 'pass thru' window!!!! You see it was over 100 out!!! And it was much cooler in the house! We caught 5 more that day and also released them. I could hardly BELIEVE that we had caught 11!

So,... when we tried some more on day #3, fishing in the shade of an umbrella, I about fainted when we got 4 more! Then we went away for a few days. At that point I knew we had at least 2 more as I'd seen them, so when we got back I put the pole back in, and we caught 3 more!!!! AND I've seen at least one more swimming about!!! All this is so hard to believe!!! All of these have been in the pond since the very beginning 3 years ago ...or have they been breeding!?!

We may never know! Anyway, I DON'T recommend stocking a wildlife pond with catfish!
NEW!! -- Here it is 2002 and I just found out WHY a Great-blue Heron was finding our pond so attractive, this catfish had Heron 'beak-marks' on each side of its body! I guess we still have them!

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