Residents and nonresidents must obtain a free paddlefish permit in addition to a fishing license before fishing for paddlefish. The free permit is available at gooutdoorsoklahoma.com, Department headquarters, through the Go Outdoors Oklahoma phone app and license vendors.
Paddlefish are one of the most unique fish in Oklahoma. They can live up to 50 years and range throughout the U.S. from Montana to Louisiana. In Oklahoma, they are found mainly in the Grand Neosho and Arkansas river systems.
The Wildlife Department's paddlefish management program involves an extensive process of netting, weighing, measuring, and marking paddlefish with metal bands on the lower jaw.
In 1992, fisheries biologists began an effort to re-introduce paddlefish to waters where they had become locally eradicated. Dams on several rivers had blocked the annual movements of paddlefish in several river systems. Hatchery professionals raised young paddlefish in Byron and Tishomingo and then released them in Kaw, Oologah, Texoma, and Hugo lakes.
During their early spring spawning run, this prehistoric fish can be caught by snagging with a stout surf rod, heavy test line, and a large barbless treble hook. Anglers are required to obtain a free paddlefish permit before fishing for paddlefish in Oklahoma. The permit can be obtained by going to the online license system and select the purchase a new license or the "Get a Paddlefish Permit" option. Paddlefish not immediately released are considered kept and must be tagged immediately with the angler's paddlefish permit number.
If you catch a banded paddlefish: You can keep the band if you harvest the fish. Please report the band when you e-check your harvest. Please do not remove bands from released fish, but you can report the catch and release of banded paddlefish here. Thanks for supporting our paddlefish conservation efforts.
Why? Biologists use bands to estimate population abundance and annual harvest. Click here to learn more about banded paddlefish and the conservation effort.
Paddlefish Research Center (PRC)
- What is the purpose of the Paddlefish Research Center (PRC)?
To collect important biological data to assist biologists in managing this unique population.
- Paddlefish Research Center hours of operation?
The PRC is only operational for a few months each year in early spring.
Location: 61091 E. 120 Rd., Miami, OK 74354 (4 miles north of Twin Bridges State Park on Hwy 137).
Open: March 1 - April 30
Hours of Operation: Sat, Sun, Mon, Thurs, Fri 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. CLOSED TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY.
Paddlefish brought to the PRC must be alive in order to be processed.
Dead fish will not be accepted!
- What is the ideal method for an angler to tag a paddlefish that they intend to keep?
Any paddlefish legally caught and kept by anglers must be immediately tagged with the angler's paddlefish permit number. One way is with the use of grey duct tape and a permanent marker. Wrap duct tape around the bill several times and write the entire paddlefish permit number on the tape legibly with permanent marker. If one group is bringing multiple fish to the PRC, it also helps to have the angler's name written on the tag.
- How Does the PRC Work?
- Anglers who donate their fish to the RPC provide fisheries biologists with biological data and an alternative source of income.
- Anglers get their fish cleaned for free.
- Funds derived from the program go back to the resource along with projects such as improved fishing access, paddlefish management, angler education, etc.
- Fishermen can have their fish picked up in the field by calling (918) 542-9422 or drop their fish off at the PRC (located 4 miles north of Twin Bridges State Park).
- Anglers must have a valid fishing license and a paddlefish permit.
- The fish must be legibly tagged with the angler's paddlefish permit number and must be ALIVE.
- Received fish are assigned a tracking number which will stay with the fish throughout the process.
- Anglers will be given a plastic barcoded keytag for each fish which must be presented when picking up their fillets. This ensures the data are accurate and the anglers receive fillets from the same fish that they caught.
- ODWC has specialized equipment which minimizes waste while removing red meat.
- Fishermen should remember that most of a paddlefish’s weight comes from its head and vital organs.
- Fillets are packaged in heat-sealed plastic bags and stored at 34 degrees until picked up by the angler.
- Fillets must be picked up within 24 hours.
- If the fish has eggs, they are carefully removed and professionally processed into caviar.
- These raw eggs are converted into a high-quality, ready-to-eat, finished product, which is sold on the international market with the revenues used to fund paddlefish management. Most of Oklahoma’s paddlefish caviar is consumed in Europe and Japan.
The Paddlefish Research Center is located at 61091 E. 120 Rd., Miami, OK 74354 (4 miles north of Twin Bridges State Park on State Highway 137). ODWC boats and trucks will pick up fish from banks and boat anglers. To arrange for a pick-up, contact the center at (918) 542-9422. For other questions, call Paddlefish Research Supervisor Brandon Brown at (918) 686-3673.
Additional Paddlefish Resources
- Where To Paddlefish
Grand, Hudson and Fort Gibson lakes are all part of the Grand River system that has provided Oklahoma and non-resident anglers with some of the best paddlefishing in the world. Please be sure to read all the regulations regarding paddlefishing in the Oklahoma Fishing Guide.
These maps provide the location of boat ramps. Please be sure to read all the regulations regarding paddlefishing in the Oklahoma Fishing Guide.
In addition to the Neosho River paddlefish can be caught in the Kaw Lake tailwaters, Keystone, and Oologah Lake.
- Paddlefish Data
Since the Paddlefish Research Center (PRC: formally known as the Paddlefish Research and Processing Center, or RPC) officially opened in spring 2008, a significant amount of never before available data have been collected. Biologists continue to collect data via traditional methods, however, angler-caught fish information is now being collected, to better evaluate the Grand Lake paddlefish population. Below are three forms of data now being used by ODWC to make paddlefish management decisions.
PRC Fish Data
Since opening in 2008, approximately 22,000 paddlefish have been examined and ODWC has amassed a considerable database on biology, physiology, and demographics of this southern plains stock.
Jawbones removed from all processed fish revealed that the spawning population of Grand Lake paddlefish for the past five years has been dominated by fish spawned in 1999. the outstanding recruitment resulting from this massive spawn is still not completely understood, but it has provided many years of excellent fishing as a result.
Weather and Netting Data
Weather is a significant factor in the spawning success of paddlefish. During the 1999 spring spawn (Feb. – May), there were 16 days of high flow in the Neosho River.
By combining the known factor that spawning conditions were good in 1999 with the subsequent increases in paddlefish caught during netting, biologists knew that anglers would be experiencing some great snagging when these fish reached sexual maturity. The angler-caught fish brought into the PRC for processing the past five years helps confirm that the spawn of 1999 resulted in a great year class of fish.
Netting data show that the number of paddlefish in the Grand River system has increased since the mid-1990s. Although the population has grown, netting data also indicate that subsequent year classes are not as strong as the class of 1999.
The good flow year of 1999 was followed by several less than optimal years of streamflow (2000–2007). All had nine or fewer days where water levels reached the optimum flow for paddlefish.
Netting data collected at the PRC and weather data are all being used by biologists to make paddlefish management decisions.
Weak year classes subsequent to that of 1999 and data on increasing angler numbers are the key reasons for ODWC making changes to the 2010 paddlefish regulations.
Paddlefish Permit Data
Anglers who snag for paddlefish must obtain a free paddlefish permit. This is vital as well to the overall decision-making process in regards to current and future regulations. Biologists use paddlefish permit data to determine angler use, motives, and satisfaction.
Based on the number of paddlefish permits issued and the results of postseason angler surveys, ODWC recognizes that tens of thousands of resident and nonresident anglers fish for paddlefish during the spring run. Since 2008, the popularity of this fishery has grown.
Results from the post-season angler survey indicate that nearly 65 percent of anglers had their kept paddlefish processed by the PRC. Nearly half of the anglers using the PRC are non-residents, indicating that the fishery is valued as a regional resource, not simply to Oklahomans. Given various choices about their paddlefish experience, anglers indicated that the fun and excitement of paddlefishing combined with the chance of catching a big fish were the most important aspects of their experience.
What the Future Holds
Due to the PRC, biologists know more than they ever have about the paddlefish in the Grand River system. The fishing is great and the fishery has grown in popularity. Netting shows that the paddlefish population is still very good and with proper management, anglers can look forward to years of good snagging.
Although conditions were similar to 1999, it is a little early to accurately predict the future in regards to recent flow years such as 2008 and 2009. Over the next few years of netting, biologists will determine if the optimal spawning conditions did in fact produce one or two back-to-back strong year classes similar to 1999.
As an agency, ODWC is responsible for the management of this resource. Our goal is to actively monitor and manage the angler pressure on the population to ensure that the resource will be enjoyed by future generations. Recreational anglers can do their part in helping manage and enhance the fishery by 1) knowing the regulations, 2) practicing catch-and-release, 3) not targeting spawning females, 4) reporting banded paddlefish, and 5) using the services of the PRC for kept fish.