Caddo Lake Institute

Paddlefish Experiment Update

Third Release of Paddlefish into Caddo Lake - May 2016

On May 18th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with its partners, the Caddo Lake Institute (CLI), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), Northeast Texas Municipal Water District (NETMWD), and the Collins Academy took the next step in the experiment to reintroduce paddlefish in the Caddo Lake watershed. 

paddlefish in surgery

Paddlefish in surgery. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

USFWS released several hundred American paddlefish, the oldest surviving fish species in North America, into Caddo Lake. The fish were transported from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma by TPWD staff in two groups, one to the shore of Caddo Lake in Karnack, TX and the other to the boat ramp in Jefferson, TX.  About twenty seven of the fish had radio transmitters surgically-implanted by USFWS last month, so that they can be tracked as they move in the watershed.   Several hundred other paddlefish were released at the same time.  The fish are about a year old and 12 to 18 inches long.  CLI will provide the tracking information for the fish on our website later in the summer.

student holding paddlefish

Student releasing a paddlefish. Photo: Mike Gannon of Collins Academy.

The Fort Worth District of the US. Army Corps of Engineers created this video below of the release on May 18th.

Success of Release & Monitoring
In March of 2014, 47 paddlefish were released into the Caddo Lake watershed. The fish were also raised at the Tishomingo Hatchery.  The unique signal from each of the transmitters in the fish allowed scientists, students from 20 area schools and the general public to track the movements of the paddlefish in the watershed. Based on the success of the first release, 2,000 more small fish (tagged, but without transmitters) were released in September of 2014.

“The data we’ve collected shows that the paddlefish are not just surviving, but are healthy and growing. It also indicates that none of paddlefish have gone over the Caddo Lake spillway and out of the watershed, which is a very promising sign,” said Mike Montagne, freshwater ecologist with USFWS.  A report on the results of Phase 1 by the USFWS is here.

More information about the paddlefish can be found here.  

Restoring Flows and Fish
Since 2004, Caddo Lake Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and their partners have worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam, and the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District, which owns much of the water in Lake O’ the Pines, to revise freshwater flow releases from the dam to improve ecological health for downstream wetlands, fish and other wildlife, including paddlefish.

More information about the environmental flows effort can be found here.

“This is one of the most fascinating freshwater projects happening in the country,” said Laura Huffman, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Texas.  “The concept that a 300-million-year-old species can show us how to strike the right balance to meet water needs for both people and nature is quite amazing.”

Other partners in the experiment and educational programs include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, The Nature ConservancyNortheast Texas Municipal Water District and the Collins Academy.

May Release News Stories:

  • May 25, 2016, Shreveport Times - "Paddlefish Released into Caddo Lake"
  • May 18, 2016, KTAL News - "Paddlefish Released in East Texas Waters"
  • May 18, 2016, Longview News-Journal - "Release of 31 Paddlefish to Help Gauge Habitat Health at Big Cypress"

For more information, please visit our Paddlefish Experiment project webpage.

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