Paddlefish                           



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March and the paddlefish are starting to move!

A few more heavy rains and a few more degrees on the thermometer – that is all it will take to send paddlefish on their annual spawning migration.

Paddlefish, one of Oklahoma's most unique fish, begin staging at the upper

end of reservoirs in early spring in anticipation of the spawning run. As

water temperatures rise and rains bring water levels up, paddlefish begin

moving upstream to spawn.

Growing to over six feet long and weighing over 100 pounds, paddlefish

gather algae and zooplankton from the water by swimming slowly with their

mouths open.

Due to changes in their habitat, paddlefish, or spoonbills as they are

often called, occupy only a small percentage of their former range in the

U.S. Oklahoma, however, has maintained a healthy population of paddlefish

in northeast Oklahoma. The Neosho River system and Grand Lake in

particular support a thriving paddlefish fishery.

When paddlefish go on the move each spring, fishermen are not far behind

them. Many anglers flock to the river’s edge to partake in this unique and

challenging sport. A 50-pound paddlefish in a swift current is more than

enough to get the adrenaline pumping in any angler. The fun doesn’t end

when the fight is over. Paddlefish, when properly cleaned and cooked, are

an excellent addition to any dinner table.

Several regulations were recently changed to ensure that paddlefish will

be abundant for many years to come.

The daily bag limit on paddlefish taken during the spawning season was

reduced from three fish to one per day year-round. Catch and release

fishing will be allowed year-round until an angler reaches his daily limit

of one and then the angler must stop snagging. The new rules define a hook

used in snagging as one single hook or one treble hook and require all

hooks to be barbless. Anglers will be required to tag (with name, address

and license number) all paddlefish and paddlefish parts until reaching

their residence. The new rules also allow non-residents to take four daily

limits home (not in a boat) and changes legal snagging hours below the dam

at Ft. Gibson from "sunset to sunrise" to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

For a complete list of the regulation changes consult the “2003 Oklahoma

Fishing Guide” or log onto the Department's web site at

www.wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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