MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

June 6, 2014

Paddlefish harvest lower due largely to restrictions, but egg supply also low

Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission members learned this spring's paddlefish harvest in Oklahoma was lower than it was in 2013, based on data gathered by the Wildlife Department's Paddlefish Research Center (PRC) near Miami But the lower harvest is going to benefit the state's paddlefish resource, which has received some heavy angling pressure in recent years.

Brent Gordon, coordinator of the Department's paddlefish and caviar program, said the PRC processed 2,405 paddlefish from April 1 to May 15, about 45 percent of the usual harvest seen in recent years. Gordon presented his report on the status of Oklahoma's paddlefish fishery at the Commission's June 2 meeting in Oklahoma City.

The drop in numbers wasn't surprising. Gordon cited several factors that played a role in this year's smaller harvest. Foremost among those was a new annual harvest limit on paddlefish: just two per angler for the entire year.

Gordon cited other factors: A colder-than-normal March and drought conditions in April and May caused delays in staging and disturbed the normal spawning runs. "The fish just never staged properly for us this season" at Grand Lake, he said.

Researchers also were able to process some paddlefish from Fort Gibson reservoir this spring to gain some baseline data on that fishery.

Because of the poor conditions, he said this year's paddlefish spawn can likely be written off as nonexistent. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has taken larvae samples twice a week since March, and no paddlefish have been collected. That means the 2014 year class will be missing from the breeding paddlefish population for the next 15 or so years.

The Commission also heard an update on the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program (OKSSSP), the newest addition to the Department's suite of Outdoor Education opportunities for state school students. Coordinator Damon Springer detailed the program's growth since it began with 50 charter schools in August 2013.Springer said the OKSSSP plans to add 35 high schools, begin holding regional shooting competitions, and institute a bracket-style tournament format for the state shoot in 2015.

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