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Oklahoma caviar sales brought in $1.5 million

A fishing operation on Grand Lake is netting the state Department of Wildlife Conservation more than $1 million a year in caviar sales.
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL Modified: July 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: July 12, 2013

Gordon, who has been studying paddlefish since 1990, said the species is plentiful in Grand Lake and in lakes and streams in the Miami area. Those who catch the paddlefish — commonly called spoonbills — can turn them over to the agency, which cleans the fish, packages the meat and returns it to the angler.

“This is not the kind of fish you can kill for research purposes,” Gordon said. “This program allows for getting research information out of the fish that you couldn't get any other way.”

If the fish had eggs, they are carefully removed and processed into caviar, Gordon said.

Paddlefish are a “filter feeder,” he said. “They basically swim Grand Lake with their mouths open.”

“I issue paddlefish permits to half the state of Nebraska and Kansas,” said.

The paddlefish gather around Sail Boat Bridge in November when they are starting to spawn, said Sam Williams, owner of the Grand Lake Sports Center. By April, the paddlefish have started moving north, Williams said.

“The biggest paddlefish was caught in June,” Williams said. “It weighed 133 pounds and seven ounces.”

That monster fish, caught on a jug line, “was let go back into Grand Lake to get bigger,” Williams said.

Spring River is a sanctuary for paddlefish, he said.

“No one is allowed to snag a paddlefish there,” Williams said.


At a glance

The Paddlefish Research Center's spoon bill fishing procedures

Anglers must have a valid fishing license and paddlefish permit.

Any paddlefish legally caught and kept by an angler must be immediately tagged with the angler's paddlefish permit number and must be alive. Dead fish are not accepted.

Received fish are assigned a tracking number, which will stay with the fish throughout the process.

Anglers will be given a plastic bar-coded key tag for each fish, which must be presented when picking up their fillets. This ensures the data are accurate and the anglers receive fillets from the same fish that they caught.

Fillets must be picked up within 24 hours.

Anglers get their fish cleaned free.

The Paddlefish Research Center is open March and April and is 4 miles north of Twin Bridges State Park on State Highway 137. For more information, call the Paddlefish Research Center at (918) 542-9422.

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