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Published on: Feb. 14, 2012

raises thousands of paddlefish fingerlings each year. When they reach 10 to 12 inches in length, they are released into state waters. “Right now, the stocking plan calls for 15,000 fish each year in Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks, with a pulse stocking of 30,000 fish every third year, 3,000 in Table Rock Lake, with a pulse stocking of 6,000 fish every third year and 750 in the Black River,” said Yasger. “The pulse stocking is a boost because they are a river fish, and fish don’t consistently reproduce in river systems every year. You get a pulse every few years, so we try to mimic natural reproduction.”

To produce the stocking brood, the staff at Blind Pony Hatchery temporarily relocate a few mature paddlefish from the James River arm of Table Rock Lake to their facility each year. “Usually we try to bring back 12 males and 12 females for the year,” said Bruce Drecktrah, Blind Pony Hatchery manager. “We hold them in one of the 1/10-acre ponds and then we bring them into the hatchery building and spawn them. When we catch them in the James River, they are naturally looking for a place to spawn. They are wanting to do it on their own—we just kind of help them along.”

It’s during this predictable spawning pattern each spring that anglers from every corner of the state and beyond head to the water in search of paddlefish. The three stocked reservoirs are a good place to start. “In the reservoir environment, the fish grow bigger because they are not fighting the current and there is also more food for them to eat,” said Yasger. Unlike most other fish, paddlefish reach their impressive size by only feeding on microscopic plankton. “They are filter feeders, so as long as they are swimming and have their mouth open they are constantly feeding,” said Yasger. “It takes about 6 to 8 years for a paddlefish to reach legal harvest size.”

Expect Snags in Your Plan

In the reservoirs, spawning paddlefish can only go as far as the dams and then begin to stack up in higher concentrations. Because they have no interest in traditional lures and bait, and microscopic plankton are pretty difficult to thread on a hook, those pursuing paddlefish have to do so by snagging. Higher numbers of fish in smaller areas of water definitely increases success. “All

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