Farm and Ranch
Catfish production down but Texas producers faring well
By Adam Russell, Texas A&M
Dec 3, 2017
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COLLEGE STATION – Texas catfish production is down, but that’s not bad news for fish producers around the state, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Dr. Todd Sink, AgriLife Extension fisheries specialist, College Station, said Texas catfish producers were slowly entering the annual catfish harvest and production was expected to be down about 5 percent. The drop, however, is attributed to producers’ shift to production of higher value species such as red drum and striped bass. 

“They’re just seeing better profit margins on those species,” he said. “Catfish prices have been low to stagnant for the past 20 years as production costs have continued to rise, so they’re looking at options.”

Sink said post-harvest live-weight values for catfish, $1.34, was much better than it has been. Texas produces around 19 million pounds of catfish annually and is No. 4 in the nation behind Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.

There are 15 major producers in the state, but Sink said there are numerous “mom-and-pop” operations that market local fish to restaurants, grocers and individuals.

Sink said producers harvest fish throughout the year, but major harvests occur each winter as temperatures drop.

“Once the temperature dips below 50 degrees fish stop eating,” he said. “They start losing weight and producers want to take them to market before they start losing money.”

Sink said expectations for above-average temperatures could allow producers to push harvest longer than typical. Producers typically begin harvesting in earnest during November and catfish supplies should build through December.

“Consumers should expect prices to go down as supply numbers increase,” he said.

Sink said competition with Chinese catfish producers has affected U.S. prices some. About 10 percent of catfish in U.S. markets are produced in China, which has transitioned some capacity to production of North American species including channel catfish versus native species to appeal to U.S. consumers.

“If it doesn’t say U.S. farm-raised, there’s a good chance it’s Chinese,” he said. “They’re adapting their production because they can produce fish much cheaper and export it for better prices in the states. At this point they produce about 20-25 percent of the seafood we consume in the U.S.”

Catfish harvest is underway in Texas and will escalate as temperatures continue to drop. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Todd Sink)