Revisiting Paddlefish in Big Cypress Bayou

Paddlefish at hatchery, photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Paddlefish at hatchery, photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service


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Paddlefish, once abundant in the Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake, started disappearing following construction of a dam at Lake of the Pines in the late 1950s.

07- So, basically, it took away the flows that the paddlefish need, and it took away their spawning substrate; eventually paddlefish just went away.

Inland fisheries’ Tim Bister says in spring 2014 a broad coalition of non-profits, landowners, and government agencies, reintroduced paddlefish into the system. But they first made improvements to benefit the rare species, including development of natural water releases upstream from Lake of the Pines, and gravel bar spawning areas.

14-We stocked 47 paddlefish, a year and a half old, between two and three feet long. And each were implanted with a radio transmitter, with a specific radio frequency that could be identified by a radio receiver.

Researchers tracked the paddlefish to see whether they would swim downstream over the spillway at Caddo Lake, and into Louisiana.

12-[If they did], they wouldn’t be able to swim back upstream because of that barrier. So, we wanted to make sure, by tracking these paddlefish, to see if they’re going to stay in the system. And after a year, I’m happy to say, that no fish were seen going over the spillway.

The radio transmitter batteries are fading, but the data collected so far is promising. Until the paddlefish reach reproductive maturity, we won’t know if we’ll see a self-sustaining population in Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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