Help Improve Paddlefishing


paddlefish swimming
Paddlefish, also known as spoonbill, have long, paddle-shaped rostrums that are about one-third the length of their bodies.
Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

We Need More and Better Information

MDC biologists have been studying these prehistoric fish since at least the 1960s, yet we still have much to learn. Angler surveys and other research and monitoring efforts have helped us assess reservoir populations, but these data have not provided the information needed to implement the best possible management strategies. We need more and better information on where fishing and harvest occur throughout the state, the number of people who fish for paddlefish and the number and sizes of paddlefish caught and harvested. This information can help us further manage our stocking program, these popular fisheries and our paddlefish management efforts.

Paddlefish Tagging Project

In 2015, MDC began a 5-year project tagging Paddlefish to learn more about this species and improve paddlefish management. Both legal and sublegal fish are being tagged in Lake of the Ozarks, Harry S. Truman Lake, Table Rock Lake and the Mississippi River.

MDC will jaw tag up to 2,000 fish per year in each reservoir and up to 1,000 fish per year in the Mississippi River, beginning in late October/early November and through the start of the spring snagging season. Paddlefish will be tagged with reward tags. Each year a reward (a special “I caught a Missouri Paddlefish” t-shirt) will be given for the 1st tag that an angler returns and all returned tags will be entered into a drawing for up to $500.

In Harry S. Truman Lake, ultrasonic transmitters will be implanted in 100 reproductive adults (males and females in spawning condition) to monitor spawning movements and aggregations to see if natural reproduction is occurring and identify spawning areas. During 2016, we will also implant ultrasonic transmitters and track reproductive adults in the Mississippi River, Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake. Stationary receivers will be strategically placed to monitor movement. Manual tracking of fish will occur from the beginning of March to the end of May or until aggregations are located. In the areas where aggregations are found, we will attempt to capture paddlefish eggs and larvae.

We Need Your Help

Please help us monitor and better manage paddlefish by reporting all tagged paddlefish that you catch. Do NOT remove tags from sublegal paddlefish, rewards will not be given for tags removed from sublegal fish. Tags from harvested paddlefish must be sent in for reward – photos of tag numbers will be accepted.

When you catch a tagged paddlefish write down the following information;

  1. DATE you caught the fish
  2. WHERE (Reservoir or River, Mile Marker, County) you caught the fish
  4. The eye-to-fork LENGTH of the fish
  5. Your NAME and ADDRESS

Please call or send this information to:

Missouri Department of Conservation
3815 East Jackson Blvd.
Jackson, MO 63755

For questions, call 660-530-5500 or email

Thank you for your help with this project.

Project Update

Year-1 (2015) Summary

  • During the first year 2,768 paddlefish were tagged with jaw bands and 234 tags were reported.
Paddlefish Tagging
Location Number Tagged Number Returned
Table Rock Lake 644 58
Harry S. Truman Lake 1269 129
Lake of the Ozarks 555 29
Mississippi River 300 18
  • We tracked 100 large reproductive paddlefish with stationary receivers located throughout Harry S. Truman Lake. These fish moved up into the Osage River and upstream into the Marais des Cygnes following increases in water levels. Of the fish tagged with transmitters:
    • 16 percent fish remained in the lower lake
    • 84 percent fish exhibited upstream movement in the Osage Arm, moving above Osceola
    • 66 percent fish moved upstream past Taberville
    • 52 percent fish moved upstream past Old Town Access
    • Fish began moving back downstream in May and were detected in the lower lake beginning in June
    • The average distance traveled was 197 miles, the longest distance 463 miles
  • Based on the observed movement, we sampled for eggs and larvae at gravel bars in these areas. On a gravel bar above Taberville Access in the Marais des Cygnes River we collected 11 embryos (eggs) and 1 larval paddlefish.
  • Despite not having large paddlefish tagged with transmitters in the Mississippi River, we documented successful reproduction. When trawling throughout the Mississippi River during the summer biologists collected 61 larval paddlefish from the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the Mississippi River as it borders Missouri.
  • Tagged Mississippi River fish were caught anywhere from 0-500 miles from their tagging location.

Year-2 (2016)

  • Biologists began sampling fish in late October. However, heavy rains in December have caused river and lake levels to rise; sampling has been put on hold till water levels come down and air temperatures are above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Biologist began sampling again in early February and will continue through 14 March.
  • All fish captured are weighted, measured, jaw tagged and released. Jaw tags are metal band, each has a different number.
  • On the Mississippi River we will implant up to 100 reproductive adult paddlefish with ultrasonic transmitters.
  • On Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake we will implant up to 100 reproductive adult paddlefish in each reservoir with ultrasonic transmitters.
  • On Harry S. Truman Lake, we will implant 17 reproductive adult paddlefish with ultrasonic transmitters. In 2015, snaggers harvested fish with transmitters. The returned transmitters will be implanted in other fish.