Male paddlefish are old enough to spawn when they are four to nine years. Females spawn when they are 6-12 years old. Spawning season is from March through June when spring rains raise the water levels of rivers and water temperatures reach 50-60 degrees. Males and females gather in schools and release their eggs over gravel or sandbars. This is called "broadcast spawning." By the end of their first year, baby paddlefish grow about 10 to 12 inches. In Oklahoma, where water temperatures are warm, they can live up to 25 years.
Paddlefish are caught by snagging, usually beginning sometime in March and ending in late April, 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.
Paddlefish were once very abundant throughout their range, but have declined in numbers. Threats to paddlefish include:
Construction of dams which have affected breeding and feeding patterns
Fish kills and water quality issues associated with dam operations
Illegal harvest of adult paddlefish for caviar
In 1992, fisheries biologists began an effort to re-introduce paddlefish to waters where they have 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.
The fisheries division of the wildlife department has placed bands on thousands of paddlefish in lakes statewide. These bands are an important research tool allowing biologists to learn about population abundance, individual growth, and annual harvest. Anglers can assist in this effort by reporting banded harvest, not removing bands from released fish, and knowing the regulations. This research is being paid for through the federally administered State Wildlife Grant.