Paddlefish Management, Propagation, and Conservation in the 21st Century

Paddlefish Harvest in Oklahoma

Brent Gordon


Abstract.—The Neosho River/Grand River is the only river system in Oklahoma that has been investigated on a regular basis in Oklahoma (1979– 2005) to determine the paddlefish Polydon spathula harvest and exploitation by sport and commercial fisheries. Commercial fishing for paddlefish began in 1975, and even with increased harvest restrictions in 1991 on commercial paddlefish harvest, 2,412 paddlefish were reported harvested during that year. This was the second highest commercial harvest reported during the period 1975–1991. Because of overwhelming public support, closure of commercial fishing on Grand Lake began in 1992. Creel information in recent years (2003–2005) indicated that sport angling pressure and harvest continue to be high and remain at levels observed in the early 1990s. However, angler exploitation rates in 2003 and 2004 (2.0–2.4%) were lower when compared to 1980 (18.8%). Exploitation rates below Grand Lake, in the area between Ft. Gibson Lake and Lake Hudson, were 2.5% in 2005, suggesting that exploitation in the Grand Lake/Neosho River systems was well below the recommend 15% for sustainable populations. Although exploitation and population size structure were of concern from 1979 through 1993, subsequent establishment of more conservative paddlefish regulations followed by intense monitoring of this fishery appears to have been successful in allowing the population to rebound to more desirable levels. Continued monitoring is needed, however, because of increased threats to the paddlefish population and decreased water quality and invasive species.