Biologists say rain needed to start migration; season opened March 15

The Kansas paddlefish season runs March 15 through May 15, but anglers may not have much success unless eastern Kansas receives spring rains and rivers rise. If the dry spell breaks, and rivers rise, paddlefish enter Kansas in search of spawning areas, usually when the water temperature approaches 60 degrees.

But conditions are not promising as the season opens. On the Neosho River below the Chetopa Dam, water flow is far below what is necessary to spur the paddlefish spawning migration.

"We normally open the season with a water flow of 10,000 to 12,000 cubic feet per second," said Sean Lynott, fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park (KDWP). "Right now we have 70. We need serious rainfall for the fish to run."

Things are not much better at the Marais des Cygnes River below Osawatomie Dam. KDWP fisheries biologist Richard Sanders said that river is low, too. "I checked it on Friday [March 10], and it was way low," said Sanders. "We've had some rain since then -- maybe about 1/10 of an inch to 1 inch -- but it was spotty, and I don't think nearly enough to bring the fish in."

Both areas were posted open to paddlefish snagging March 15. Paddlefish may be snagged using pole and line with not more than two single or treble hooks. (Barbless hooks must be used in the Neosho River.) The daily creel limit for paddlefish is one at the Chetopa dam on the Neosho River and two at the Osawatomie site. Both Neosho and Marais des Cygnes rivers have a length limit of 34 inches. The possession limit is six on or after the third day of the season (three at the Chetopa site). Each legal-sized (measured eye to fork of tail) paddlefish caught must be kept -- on a tagged stringer -- and must also be tagged at a designated check-in station. Anglers must stop snagging once the daily limit of legal-sized paddlefish is reached. Other sportfish snagged must be released immediately.

Anglers at the Chetopa site must check in at Warwick’s Jump Start in Chetopa. At the Osawatomie paddlefish snagging area, the check-in station is Moon's IGA in Osawatomie. Paddlefish may be snagged in the Browning Oxbow Lake, near Elwood, but this site receives very little pressure because it has been low for the past four years and has no check station. Anglers who snag paddlefish there must phone 785-246-4514 to get fish tagged.

Anglers should check with these stations ahead of time for hours of operation. In addition, openings, closings, and hours of snagging areas are subject to change. Anglers should check posted signs on the sites before snagging. Each area is posted with all regulations and directions to the local check station. Other sportfish, such as flathead catfish, cannot be legally snagged and must be immediately released if accidentally caught.