October 15, 2003

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Eastern Oklahoma State College agriculture students work to haul more than 3,500 lbs of catfish from the college research ponds on the Wilburton campus recently. They drug a 490-foot seine through each one-acre pond to "corral" the fish into one corner for collection. Photo by Steven Akins.

EOSC nets catfish rodeo

They call it a catfish rodeo.

But, the agriculture students at Eastern Oklahoma State College call it fun.

Eastern instructors call it learning and money.

Students at the Wilburton college harvested more than 3,500 pounds of catfish recently by seining two of the aquiculture research ponds on the 5,000-acre college farm.

Calls of “here kitty,” “here kitty,” “here kitty, kitty,” could be heard coming from the banks of ponds made murky by 75 students dragging a 490 foot seine through the one-acre ponds to corral the catfish into one corner for collection.

The project began in 1989 when Congressman Wes Watkins arranged for a $35,000 co-operative grant to be awarded to the college from USDA (United State Department of Agriculture) and ARS (Agriculture Research
Service) for research into catfish farming.

Initially, some 16,000 fingerling catfish were introduced to the ponds in April of 1990 and harvested six months later.

“We were surprised at their growth,” Agriculture Instructor Duane Jeffery, who is in charge of the project at the inception, said.

“We were just in the beginning stages of the research project and it was a new experience for us all.”

Additional financial help to the college for the project came in the form of time and equipment to actually dig the four research ponds. Lloyd “Bo” McCoy donated more than $40,000 in time and equipment use to build the ponds in the fall of 1989, which filled with rainfall by early spring.

Today, the process is somewhat different. Some of the fish remain in the ponds to reproduce. And, every year or two, their offspring are harvested. The process eliminates the expense of introducing fingerling fish to the pond.

Seventy percent of the catfish sold in Oklahoma is imported from outside the state and 31 percent of the catfish consumed in the United States is imported from other countries.

For more information, contact Hank Mooney at 1-918-465-2361, ext. 241.