Caddo Lake Institute

Paddlefish Experiment Update

2,000 Fish Released into Caddo Lake - September 2014

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, Caddo Lake Institute (CLI), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Texas Parks &Wildlife Department continued the first phase of the paddlefish experiment by releasing 2,000 additional paddlefish at the Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, Texas.

This release is a follow-up to the original experimental release in March 2014, when about 50 paddlefish were surgically implanted with radio transmitters and set free into Caddo Lake and the Big Cypress Bayou. Early data from this release indicated that the fish are doing remarkably well, which prompted the team to conduct this large scale release.    

In the press release for the event, Don Henley explained, "For 10 years we’ve been working to restore habitat and improve flows for the paddlefish and many other fish species in Caddo Lake." Don Henley is a recording artist and founder of the Caddo Lake Institute. He added, “The success of phase one of the paddlefish experiment indicates that our efforts are paying off.”  

Success of Release & Monitoring

Last March, 47 paddlefish were released into the Caddo Lake watershed. The fish were raised at the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma.  The unique signal from each of the transmitters in the fish has allowed scientists, students from 20 area schools and the general public to track the movements of the paddlefish in the watershed.

“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. "Given these results, we are confident that it is time to begin the next phase of the experiment and time to release a large number of juvenile paddlefish." A preliminary 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, The Nature Conservancy, Northeast Texas Municipal Water District and the Collins Academy.

September Release News Stories:

  • CBS-DFW article (from Associated Press wire) - "Rare Paddlefish Being Stocked at East Texas Lake", September 23, 2014
  • Marshall News-Messenger/Longview News-Journal article - "About 2,000 Paddlefish Released into Caddo Lake", September 24, 2014

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

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