May 08, 2018
The 132-pound, 8-ounce paddlefish he snagged on the Arkansas River on April 29 has been certified as the newest rod-and-reel state record and is 7-1 heavier than the previous mark, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The biggest caught paddlefish on record in Oklahoma is the 134-pounder caught by Charles Ham on a trotline last August, also on the Arkansas River.
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The state wildlife agency said Morphew's catch came during his paddlefish trip, was his first caught paddlefish, and was snagged on his first cast of the day. It was checked and weighed by North Central Region Fisheries Supervisor Bill Wentroth, and then released back into the Arkansas River near Blackburn.
The previous rod-and-reel state-record paddlefish (125-7) was caught in the Arkansas River in April 2011 by Aaron Stone of Pawhuska.
According to Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation:
Nationally, paddlefish range from Louisiana to Montana. But Oklahoma's paddlefish resource wasn't always as robust as it is today.
In 1992, fisheries biologists began an effort to re-introduce paddlefish to state waters where they had become locally eradicated, using hatchery-raised fish. This allowed self-sustaining populations to become established in many areas. In February 2008, the Wildlife Department opened the Paddlefish Research Center (PRC) near Miami, Okla. The center operates in March and April each year to collect important biological data, process paddlefish fillets for anglers and salvage paddlefish eggs.
Each fish is examined to gather details about the health of the paddlefish population. Then eggs are harvested from the female fish, processed into caviar, and sold in world markets. Caviar proceeds are used to fund continued paddlefish research and improve angler access, along with other fish and wildlife conservation activities.
This model program allows biologists to get scientific information they need to make sound management decisions, provides anglers with the meat from their fish, and creates revenue from the salvaged eggs to pay for continued management of the resource. It is a win-win scenario for anglers and for paddlefish.
To fish for state-record paddlefish in Oklahoma, anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a free ODWC paddlefish permit. With a daily limit of one, each permit holder can tag and legally retain two paddlefish per license year (Other regulations apply — see the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's 2017-18 Fishing Regulations book for details including how to report each fish tagged under the state's E-Check reporting system.)
With a naturally reproducing population of the fish, paddlefish are expanding their range in state waters. In fact, the ODWC says netting surveys over the past year or two indicate a "remarkable number of smaller paddlefish in state waters, so biologists are expecting a surge in fish numbers in the coming years."