There is still time to get in on some paddlefish action this spring but anglers should do it quickly.
Eric Brennan, fisheries technician in the northeast region for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, predicts two more weeks of good fishing.
In March, paddlefish start congregating, or staging, at the northern end of Grand Lake in anticipation of spawning. As the water temperatures rise, they start moving up the rivers to spawn.
However, big spawning runs are triggered by water being released upstream and runoff from heavy rains. When that occurs, spoonbills will shoot up the rivers to spawn and the fishing can be phenomenal.
The spawning runs sometimes continue though April but because of the warm weather the paddlefish began their migration earlier than usual this year.
Brennan, who was manning the Wildlife Department’s paddlefish processing center on Grand Lake Wednesday, said eight to 10 female paddlefish which had already spawned have recently come through the center. All of those paddlefish were snagged while they were headed back down the rivers, he said.
The Wildlife Department has processed 1,500 paddlefish, or spoonbills, at the center this spring with the biggest being a 76-pounder, Brennan said.
This year, the Wildlife Department built a new paddlefish processing center on SH 137 about three miles north of Twin Bridges State Park.
The center was built with money earned from the sale of paddlefish caviar. At the center, the Wildlife Department will clean an angler’s paddlefish for free and package the fillets in exchange for the eggs from the female, which are used to make caviar.
The Wildlife Department then sells the caviar to a wholesaler and the money raised is used for paddlefish management and research.
Anglers are allowed to keep one paddlefish per day, except on Monday and Fridays when all paddlefishing statewide is catch and release only. A free paddlefish permit along with a state fishing license is required of anglers.
For more information, anglers can call the paddlefish processing center at (918) 542-9422 or visit http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/paddlefish.htm.