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Another state fish record bites the dust!

For the fifth time in two weeks a new state fish record has been broken. This was no Aprils fool’s joke when Shane McCleary of Blackwell landed a new state record paddlefish weighing 121.2 pounds April 1 below Kaw dam.

McCleary usually fishes the Kaw Tailwaters regularly between February and the middle of March for paddlefish, before concentrating on crappie.

“I heard reports of people snagging paddlefish below the dam at Kaw Lake. I thought I would run out there before work and give it a try,” McCleary said.

            McCleary was below the dam snagging for about an hour when the dam gates were closed. McCleary caught and released about five paddlefish when he hooked what was to become a new state record.  Catch and release fishing does not harm paddlefish and is allowed year-round until an angler reaches his limit of one and then the angler must stop snagging.

            Mature paddlefish 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.

During their annual spring spawning run paddlefish can be more vulnerable to overharvest. To provide the maximum sustainable fishing opportunities and to ensure the long-term health of the paddlefish population, the Wildlife Department has modified the fishing regulations which pertain to paddlefish.

Several regulations were amended 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. 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. For complete paddlefish regulations, check out the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” available at license vendors across the state.

“I thought it was a carp or shad, then it turned and ran, hit the end of the line and peeled off about 15 yards of line at a high rate of speed,” said McCleary. “I fought it out in the current when it turned and swam up to me then made a another good run about 20 yards from me. I thought it was a pretty good fish when it rolled and I guessed it at 60-70 pounds.  When it got closer I realized I had never seen a fish that big around. It took me about five minutes to land her.”

His first instinct was to let the fish go. McCleary releases the fish he snags.

 “I enjoy the thrill of snagging. I was going to turn the fish loose, until the guy next to me talked me out of it,”  McCleary said.

The huge fish weighed 121.2 pounds and was 53 1/2 inches long. The girth was 42 1/4 inches.  The previous paddlefish record of 112 pounds was set by Gene Johnson who snagged the big paddlefish from the Tailwaters of Grand in July of 1992.

Paddlefish, or spoonbills, are large, prehistoric fish found in Oklahoma mainly in the Grand and Neosho river systems. Paddlefish, which can grow to over six feet long and weigh over 100 pounds, gather algae and zooplankton from the water by swimming slowly with their mouths open.

This prehistoric prize can be caught by snagging with a stout surf rod, heavy test line, and a 12/0 treble hook. The tailwaters of Kaw is not the only place to fish for these large fish, other top paddlefish spots are places on the Neosho River like the Riverview City Park in Miami, Conner and Twin Bridges (above Grand Lake), Ft. Gibson and Oologah.

For a complete list of the regulation changes consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log onto the Department's web site at If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee. Just For Fishn'
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