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

MDC has completed a 5-year paddlefish tagging project to learn more about this species and improve paddlefish management. During the project, MDC staff placed metal jaw tags on thousands of paddlefish in Lake of the Ozarks (2,709 fish), Harry S. Truman Lake (3,305 fish), Table Rock Lake (3,114 fish) and the Mississippi River (2,311 fish).

Ultrasonic transmitters were also implanted in 100 reproductive adults (males and females in spawning condition) at each location to monitor spawning movements and aggregations to see if natural reproduction is occurring and identify potential spawning areas. Stationary receivers were strategically placed to monitor movement.

We Need Your Help

Please continue to help us monitor and better manage paddlefish by reporting all tagged paddlefish that you catch, together we can keep snagging great for many years to come. Snaggers can keep the silver jaw tags, we just need a picture to verity the tag number. Report sublegal fish, but please Do NOT remove tags. While supplies last, MDC will send an “I Caught a Missouri Paddlefish” t-shirt or hat to those submitting a tag.

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

Report fish with jaw tags or transmitters by calling 573-579-6825 or contacting Trish Yasger at 660-530-5500 or

Thank you to all the snaggers that returned tags during out 5-year paddlefish tagging 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.