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.