It is not unusual for Ethan Lloyd and Christian Scheibe, both 12 years old, to spend their weekends fishing their local pond in Oakleaf, Florida. Last week, however, the two boys hooked something quite out of the ordinary: a redtail catfish native to the Amazon River in South America.
“It was fairly big, and whenever we pulled it up, most catfish kinda grunt, well he growled and huffed,” they told WJXT.
The catfish only measured a little over a foot long, but its very presence could mean trouble for Florida waterways. Redtail catfish can grow up to six feet in length and weigh as much as 200 pounds, but it is the absence of predators that have some biologists worried. Experts say that the redtail catfish can become an invasive species that will cause problems for any environment they are introduced to, much like the lionfish population off the Florida coast, which has by now become well-entrenched. It is believed that like lionfish, redtail catfish are introduced to the state’s lakes and ponds by irresponsible aquarium owners after they grow too large. There have been sporadic sightings of redtail catfish over the last several years and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) advises anglers to keep any non-native fish they reel in. According to the US Geological Survey, redtail catfish may be able to survive winters in warm water refuges.
The boys thought their catch was just a rare but harmless fish, and practicing good catch-and-release ethics, returned the catfish to the water. It is likely to be the only one of its kind in the pond, but the boys say they will keep fishing for it and remove it if they happen to catch it again.
Redtail catfish are popular game fish in their native habitats. The current world record held by the International Game Fish Association is a 123-pound, seven-ounce monster caught by Gilberto Fernandes in Brazil four years ago.
You can see video of the Florida fish below: