A Lake Michigan angler caught more than he bargained for earlier this month
when he reeled in an eight-pound exotic Amazonian catfish commonly known as
a redtail catfish, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said.
The redtail catfish was caught at Portage Lakefront Park by Mike Durfee,
it’s native to South America’s Amazon River system, and it’s a popular
aquarium fish in the United States. The fish would not have survived the
cold water of Lake Michigan during Indiana’s winter.
Like many other aquarium species, the redtail catfish can grow large. The
International Game Fish Association world record was caught in 2010 on the
Amazon River and weighed over 123 pounds.
Durfee’s fish likely was purchased when it was two to four inches long and
raised in an aquarium until it outgrew the aquarium, according to Eric
Fischer, aquatic invasive species coordinator in the DNR Division of Fish
“The first response of some owners may be to release unwanted fish into the
closest natural water body thinking they are helping their pets out by
setting them free,” Fischer said.
It is, however, illegal in Indiana to release not only aquarium fish but
also all other fish into public waters without a fish stocking permit.
Snakehead, an aggressive and invasive fish from Asia, and hydrilla, an
aquarium and water garden plant which forms dense mats, are examples of
species that have become established in the U.S. in large part due to
“Some aquarium fish, exotic snails, and aquarium plants can permanently
disrupt the natural environment,” Fischer said. “Exotic species impact our
native wildlife by increasing competition for aquatic resources and
A person who has an unwanted aquarium pet should pursue an alternative to
illegally releasing it into the wild. Many retailers will allow you to
return unwanted aquarium pets or will put you in contact with another
aquarium enthusiast or local aquarium society who is capable of caring for
If you are unable to find an alternative the most humane disposal method is
to place the plant or animal in the freezer and then dispose of them in the
Sightings and reports of exotic species should be reported to the DNR
through the online reporting system dnr.IN.gov/dnr/6373.htm or by calling
(866) NO EXOTIC.
For more information on the dangers and risks of releasing aquarium pets and
plants into the wild, visit habitattitude.net