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

Paddlefish Restoration to the Upper Ohio and Allegheny River Systems

David G. Argent, William G. Kimmel, Rick Lorson, Paul McKeown, Douglas M. Carlson, and Michael Clancy

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874127.ch24

Abstract.—Paddlefish Polyodon spathula historically occurred in the Ohio and Allegheny River systems, extending into the headwater sections of the Allegheny River in New York and Pennsylvania. At the turn of the 19th century, paddlefish were reported in the Allegheny River near the cities of Salamanca and Olean, New York. The last published historical account of paddlefish in Pennsylvania occurred in 1919 at the mouth of the Kiskiminetas River, a major Allegheny River tributary. The demise of paddlefish in Pennsylvania and New York has been attributed to channelization, dams, gravel dredging, and water quality degradation. The construction of Kinzua Dam in 1968 prohibited paddlefish to the upper Allegheny River system. As late as 1986, paddlefish in Pennsylvania were listed as extirpated, and they continue to be classified as such in New York. In order to re-establish self-sustaining populations, Pennsylvania initiated a stocking program in 1991 in the upper Ohio and lower Allegheny rivers. In 1998, New York initiated a complimentary stocking program approximately 160 km upstream in the Allegheny Reservoir (above Kinzua Dam). A second stocking location, Conewango Creek, was added in 2006 in a relatively unaltered section of the historic range. Free ranging adult paddlefish were captured by gill nets and “reliable source” reports were documented in Pennsylvania and New York. No evidence of natural reproduction or year-class structure has been documented in either state. Pennsylvania plans to increase the size of stocked fish and New York plans to increase stocking densities as hatchery space permits. Both states will continue to monitor and assess the reintroduction of paddlefish to the upper Ohio River basin.