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Paddlefish season is winding down but there is still time to snag a spoonbill

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Ryan Flanary, of Tuttle, holds a spoonbill snagged last month from the Grand River system in northeastern Oklahoma. [PHOTO BY BRAD HOMER]
Ryan Flanary, of Tuttle, holds a spoonbill snagged last month from the Grand River system in northeastern Oklahoma. [PHOTO BY BRAD HOMER]

Paddlefish season is winding down in Oklahoma as the spawning runs up the rivers are nearing an end.

The Paddlefish Research Center, located near the Twin Bridges Area at Grand Lake State Park in Miami, remains open until the end of April.

More than 2,300 paddlefish, or spoonbills as they are more commonly called in Oklahoma, have been checked in at the center this season, with the biggest more than 80 pounds, said Brandon Brown, paddlefish research coordinator for the Wildlife Department.

“It’s a lot better than last year, but it is a little behind other years,” Brown said of the numbers. “We definitely haven’t had normal rainfall last year or this year.

“We struggled to have water in the river, and without flow you don’t get fish coming up. Given the conditions we have had, we have done pretty well.”

Not only are there fewer fish making runs up the river without the water flow, the bigger females are less likely to swim up the river to spawn, Brown said.

The fishing has been slow the past week on the Grand River system, but recent rains in Kansas have the rivers rising, so another run could happen, Brown said. The spawning runs are normally over by the end of April, but there is still time to snag a spoonbill, he said.

“We may see the fishing pick up with the flow we’ve got,” he said. “If we do, it could be very good.”

By the first week of May, however, the spawning runs are “pretty much done” around Grand Lake, Brown said.

Another popular spot for spoonbilling in Oklahoma is the Chouteau Bend area of Fort Gibson Lake. The spoonbill fishing there typically lasts longer, Brown said.

“That could go well into May, the first week or two for sure,” he said. “(Friday) we got really good reports from down there.”

The Paddlefish Research Center on Grand Lake is staffed by Wildlife Department employees who filet the paddlefish for anglers in exchange for the eggs, which is then used to make caviar that is sold by the agency to a wholesaler.

The popularity of snagging for paddlefish is still on the rise — not as dramatically as in the years immediately after the research center opened in 2008 — but Brown meets new anglers each year at the center.

“We are still seeing new folks as more and more people find out about it,” he said. “One of our guides had a client from Japan. They saw a YouTube video and called and booked a trip and flew straight from Japan to Oklahoma and caught a paddlefish and went back home. That’s a pretty wide draw.”

Hunting guide bill now awaits governor’s action

The bill to allow commercial guiding on Oklahoma’s public hunting lands owned or leased by the Wildlife Department passed the House of Representatives by a narrow 51-49 vote last week.

The bill now awaits action by Gov. Kevin Stitt to sign it into law or veto it. The Wildlife Department did not take a position on the bill after amendments were added allowing the agency to pass rules to regulate hunting guides if the bill becomes law.

Kansas once allowed commercial guiding on public lands but stopped it after too many hunter conflicts.

On one hand, it seems only fair to allow commercial hunting guides on public lands when commercial fishing guides can operate on Oklahoma’s public waters. Only a fishing guide license is required.

But many of the wildlife management areas are owned by the Wildlife Department, which is primarily funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, so hunters are essentially paying for the land. Oklahoma’s hunters should have the biggest say in how the WMAs are used.

The governor’s website has a place to leave comments. If hunters have an opinion either way, they should let the governor know and hopefully he will listen.

Sporting clay event to benefit Children’s Miracle Network

The eighth annual Aiming For Miracles Sporting Clay tournament will be held Friday at Silverleaf Shotgun Sports in Guthrie.

All proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to fund pediatric research and support the care of critically ill children in Oklahoma.

For more information, call Al Warren at 642-2771 or register at signmeup.com/128669.

Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation team wins Central Regional

Oklahoma won the team title of B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional on Lake Guntersville, Alabama, Thursday with a two-day total of 365 pounds, 4 ounces.

Alabama finished second, weighing in 335 pounds. A total of 19 state fishing teams competed in the tournament.

The Oklahoma team’s lone resident from Texas, James Biggs of Euless, won the individual title Friday, catching a three-day total of 70 pounds, 2 ounces.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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