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

Management of Commercial Paddlefish Fisheries in the United States

George D. Scholten

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874127.ch18

Abstract.—As commercial paddlefish Polyodon spathula fisheries shifted from primarily flesh to almost exclusively roe harvest, agencies had to change their management strategies. Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee were the only states within the Mississippi River basin that were open to commercial paddlefish harvest in 2006. These seven states were surveyed in 2006 to summarize commercial paddlefish fisheries management in North America. Although commercial fishing license sales declined in most states since the mid-1980s, the number of commercial fishers targeting paddlefish steadily increased since the late 1990s. Total license fees for a resident commercial fisher to set 10 gill nets for paddlefish ranged from US$70.35 to $1,200, and those fees ranged from $242.35 to $2,500 for nonresidents (in the five states that allowed nonresidents). Management strategies employed in these seven states varied greatly in 2006. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee managed their fisheries with statewide seasons, and Kentucky had seasons for two of three major fisheries. Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee had minimum eye-to-fork length limits on all or some of their fisheries. There were numerous gear restrictions in the seven states, including minimum mesh size restrictions, net length limits, and net attendance requirements. Most states had a mandatory harvest report, but the information collected on these reports differed among states. The vastly different management strategies that were employed in the commercial fisheries throughout the Mississippi River basin have resulted in new problems as roe values increase. Future management will likely focus on development of management plans for biologically relevant areas. These management plans should include measures to prevent recruitment overfishing and minimize bycatch mortality. Interjurisdictional management and continued information sharing are necessary to effectively manage paddlefish fisheries in the future.