Do you know what draws fishermen from around the country to Grand Lake every winter?
That’s right…the pre-historic paddlefish – or spoonbill as we call them around here – are the most treasured harvest of the Grand Lake area through the winter months.
What makes it all so great is that the paddlefish is one of the largest freshwater fishes in North America and it’s generally accepted that the largest, most concentrated population of paddlefish in North America is right here, at good ol’ Grand Lake.
Hopefully, we can help you learn what you need to know to snag one of these awesome Grand Lake monster fish.
Paddlefish Licenses, Limits, Rules & Regulations
To legally (is there any other way) snag paddlefish, you need a valid Oklahoma fishing license AND a paddlefish permit.
- The daily limit is one fish.
- The annual limit is two fish.
- You may only keep your one fish on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Catch and release only on Monday and Friday.
- It is mandatory that within 24 hours of harvesting a fish you report your harvest at the ODWC E-Check system.
For complete paddlefish regulations, go HERE.
That link is the complete paddlefish regulations from the state of Oklahoma and includes help in getting your fishing license, paddlefish permits and what to do once you harvest a fish, including if you happen to snag an already tagged fish. One other note on harvesting your paddlefish…
Paddlefish Research and Processing Center
The Paddlefish Research and Processing Center is located at 61091 E. 120 Road, Miami, OK, which is four miles north of Twin Bridges State Park on Hwy 137. They can be reached at (918) 542-9422.
This is a seasonal facility, that is generally open each spring from the first of March until the end of April.
Their hours are 9 am to 6 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Their online information can be found here.
This is where you can get your paddlefish cleaned for free and be given the fillets from your fish in heat-sealed, packaged bags.
The reason they do this is that the workers at the Processing Center will salvage the eggs from the female paddlefish and process the roe into high-quality, ready-to-eat caviar, which is then sold on the international market.
Yep, that’s right. Oklahoma caviar.
They then use the funds from the sale of the Oklahoma caviar to continue paddlefish research and management and to help develop programs that ensure the healthy paddlefish population in the Neosho watershed for years to come.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved and a great program.
One more thing – someone from the research center will actually pick up your live paddlefish from bank and boat anglers at Grand Lake!
You just need to call them at (918) 542-9422 to arrange the pick-up, then stop by the research center to pick-up your ready to go fillets. Nice!
Here is another helpful article on what you need to know to make the most of your spoonbill expedition and more information on the Oklahoma caviar: http://www.travelok.com/article_page/fishing-for-paddlefish-oklahomas-caviar-bounty
How To Snag A Paddlefish
Right up front…the easiest way to snag your paddlefish is to hook up with a Grand Lake paddlefish guide.
But, if you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, then here is the low-down on what you need and need to know.
Keep in mind…these can be monster fish! The lake record is over 100 lbs, and 50-75 pounders are maybe not routine…but they happen! So make sure you are ready with the right tackle for your fight.
- 10 to 12 ft. Heavy action Rod
- Large capacity reel
- 50 lb. test line
- 10/0 to 12/0 treble hook
- 5 oz. to 1 lb. of weight (Depending on if you are trolling or bank fishing)
- Duct tape and a permanent marker for tagging.
If you’ve noticed, we’ve said repeatedly in this article the word ‘snag’.
That’s because paddlefish are NOT going to bite even the fanciest lure or delicious live bait you throw at them.
You are going to need to snag that spoonbill!
They only feed on microscopic plankton, so to land one of these monsters you need to be dragging a hook until you snag one, whether you are on the bank and reeling towards the bank or out in a boat trolling.
Another thing to keep in mind if you will be bank fishing is that the spring spawn is the optimum time to snag a spoonbill as they are much more active during their spawn in faster-moving water.
So if the current is moving pretty good and you’ve got a big spoonie on the other end, you are going to be in for a fight!
Just remember, the more your hook is steadily moving through the water, the higher your chances of snagging a paddlefish.
Others find more success by trolling.
This is especially true early in the season as the Grand Lake gets colder…starting in December and through the beginning of the spawn in late February.
This is what all of your spoonbill guides on Grand Lake will do and is another great way to snag a big ol’ fish.
The key to trolling these days is having really good sonar equipment so you can see exactly where the fish are stacked up.
That should be enough information to get you fired up and give you what you need to snag a giant spoonbill at Grand Lake!
Where To Stay While Chasing Paddlefish
If you are coming very far, you’ll want to at least spend one night in the area.
During the active paddlefish months, Miami is a popular place to stay, with many hotels and casinos in the immediate area.
Visit the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau at http://www.visitmiamiok.com to find the best option for you.
And if you are more interested in a vacation rental, hotel, or resort property in Grove or at Grand Lake, there are many to choose from and they are all more than happy to have visitors year-round.
You can find places to stay at Grand Lake here.
So there you have it.
That should give you the info you need to make plans to visit Grand Lake and snag yourself a legendary Grand Lake paddlefish!