Perhaps a week or two of good spoonbill action remains around Grand Lake.
Over the weekend, more than 600 paddlefish (also called spoonbills) were checked in at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s processing center in Twin Bridges State Park.
At the center, state wildlife officials clean the spoonbills for free and process the meat for anglers in exchange for the eggs from the female fish, which the Wildlife Department then uses to make caviar and sell to a wholesaler. The money earned from the sale goes back into the management and research of Oklahoma paddlefish.
Keith Green, paddlefish program coordinator for the Wildlife Department, said most of the spoonbills are presently being snagged in the Neosho River where the pre-historic looking fish are staging in deep holes.
Anglers are using their electronics to find the paddlefish then snag them by trolling over the holes, some of which are a half-mile long.
“(The fishing) has been really good and it’s probably going to stay good for another week,” Green said.
However, a good rain in the watershed could extend the good fishing by another week as not all of the paddlefish have made spawning runs from Grand Lake up the rivers, he said.
River flow produced by spring rains could trigger another spawning run, he said. If that happens, the best fishing could still be yet to come, he said.
The average size of the paddlefish being checked in at Twin Bridges is about 47 pounds, Green said. The biggest has been 67 pounds, but spoonbills can get much larger.
Green said state wildlife officials tagged a 122-pounder in Grand Lake over the winter.
Fridays and Mondays are catch and release days only for paddlefish on Grand Lake. All anglers must possess a paddlefish permit in addition to a fishing license, but the permits are free and can be downloaded at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Green said 76 percent of the anglers checking in spoonbills at Twin Bridges are out-of-state residents, but that’s not surprising since Grand Lake is only a few miles from the Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma borders.
However, anglers from every state obtained a paddlefish permit last year, Green said.
“We get a lot of people from Nebraska and Iowa,” he said. “They just absolutely love it.”
State wildlife officials have checked in 3,300 spoonbills to date at Twin Bridges State Park. Last year, 3,948 were checked in.
Anglers are allowed to keep one paddlefish per day, except on the catch and release days only.
Green suggests anyone planning a trip to snag some spoonbills should do so in the next two weeks, and preferably this week. Without additional rains to trigger more spawning runs, this could be the last week of good fishing, he said.