Information from tagged fish helps biologists track paddlefish and the fishery’s progress
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) paddlefish program is getting help from anglers to keep the fishery healthy. The paddlefish snagging season opened March 15 and runs through April 30. Some successful anglers will find metal tags on the lower jaw or a transmitter tube in the body cavity of the paddlefish they snag. Anglers reporting information about the tags provide important and often interesting data useful in MDC’s fishery management.
For example, several paddlefish tagged in Truman Lake or Lake of the Ozarks successfully passed through dams, went down the Osage River into the Missouri River, then traveled to other waters. Some fish made upstream runs.
“There’s a lot of movement,” said Trish Yasger, MDC fisheries management biologist. “We have fish tagged in the lakes that have ended up in the open rivers like the Missouri and the Mississippi. It’s good that adult fish are successful going through the dams.”
Paddlefish are stocked annually in Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, and Table Rock Lake. But many fish eventually move.
Some angler-reported paddlefish treks from fish tagged in Truman Lake include:
71 paddlefish passed through the dam and were caught in Lake of the Ozarks.
Three paddlefish passed through both dams for Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks, and were caught in the Osage River below Bagnell Dam.
11 paddlefish went upstream from the lake into the Osage River, entered the Marais des Cygnes River tributary, and were caught just below the Osawatomie City Dam in eastern Kansas.
Travels by paddlefish tagged in Lake of the Ozarks included:
13 paddlefish passed through Bagnell Dam and were caught in the Osage River.
Two paddlefish passed through Bagnell Dam, traveled down the Osage River to the Missouri River, swam upstream and were caught below Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota.
One paddlefish traveled through the dam, down the Osage River and then upstream in the Missouri River, entered the Kansas River at Kansas City, then moved into the Wakarusa River and was caught below the Clinton Lake dam near Lawrence, Kan.
Paddlefish stocked in Table Rock Lake also traveled:
Seven paddlefish traveled upstream in the White River arm and were harvested below the Beaver Lake dam in Arkansas.
Two paddlefish passed through the Table Rock Lake dam, through Lake Taneycomo, and were harvested below Powersite Dam at Forsyth, Mo., the upper end of Bull Shoals Lake.
Biologists still have much to learn about paddlefish, Missouri’s largest fish. But Yasger believes water flow motivates the fish to move to certain areas to spawn. Why they travel afar in other seasons is still a mystery.
Most traditional paddlefish spawning areas in the Osage River system are now inundated by the reservoirs. Most fish that anglers snag are spawned and raised at MDC’s Blind Pony Fish Hatchery and stocked as juveniles. In the Kansas City region, the prime waters for snagging paddlefish during their spring spawning runs are in the upper ends of Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake, both fed by the Osage River.
MDC biologists placed identification jaw tags and transmitter tubes in some adult paddlefish to track movements and angler harvest during a recent five-year study. The five-year study has concluded. Anglers are asked to continue reporting tags so biologists can add information to the data base.
Anglers can keep the silver jaw tag. They are asked to send a photo with the tag number. Sub-legal fish with tags should be reported but released unharmed. While supplies last, MDC will send paddlefish t-shirts and caps to anglers reporting tags. To report tagged fish, contact Yasger by phone at 660-530-5500, or by at email at Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov.
A weekly snagging report provided by Yasger provides information about paddlefish movement trends in the Osage River system and angler success. The report also provides information on changes to boat access due to high water, fishing regulations, guidelines for handling fish, and tips for success. For the report, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Ze9.