Establishing and Maintaining Paddlefish Populations by Stocking
Joanne M. Grady and Brian S. Elkington
Abstract.—Paddlefish Polyodon spathula were stocked by state and federal hatcheries throughout their range in the Mississippi River basin to (1) restore extirpated populations, (2) mitigate for habitat loss, and (3) support recreational fishing. The objectives of this paper were to review current and past paddlefish stocking by states to determine the objectives and criteria for stocking, parameters of the stocking (e.g., rates, sizes, etc.), and growth and dispersal of stocked paddlefish so agencies can use this information to make better informed decisions about future paddlefish stocking. In 2006, a questionnaire was sent to each state agency in the paddlefish range to determine each agency’s stocking costs and effort. Results from this survey were supplemented with data collected as part of the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) Paddlefish Stock Assessment Program to assess stocking efforts and strategies in the Mississippi River basin. Four states on the edges of the paddlefish’s range stock fish to restore extirpated populations. Missouri and South Dakota stock fish to mitigate natural reproduction where large dams on historic paddlefish rivers limit spawning. While stocking decisions were made by each agency independently, all paddlefish stocking agencies participated in the MICRA Paddlefish Stock Assessment Program. Most stocked fish were marked with uniquely labeled coded-wire tags to monitor fish movement and recaptures. More than 2.2 million paddlefish have been stocked from 14 states from 1988 to 2007. State and federal agencies have spent more than $10.7 million maintaining paddlefish populations through stocking since 1988. Paddlefish stocking will continue to play an integral role in the conservation and management of paddlefish as efforts to maintain sport fisheries and restore native populations continue.