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Ancient Paddlefish Being Restocked At Caddo Lake In East Texas

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Courtesy: Chuck Smith
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A newly-tagged and released paddlefish makes its way in the waters of Caddo Lake in East Texas.

CADDO LAKE PADDLEFISH RESTOCKING- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducted a special fish restocking event in East Texas last Friday. Some 3,000 paddlefish about three months in age were tagged and released near Karnack at the Caddo Lake State Park boat ramp as part of an ongoing effort to restock the ancient species which had suffered years ago after a dam was built nearby that greatly impacted water levels necessary for the fish to spawn. Laura Ashley-Overdyke is executive director of the Caddo Lake Institute a non-profit organization that is solely focused on the health of Caddo Lake and works to preserve and protect the natural wetlands habitat.

“We started a full-scale restocking project in 2018 and a couple of times a year they release paddlefish. We have about 9,000 more to go this year so there’ll be several more releases,” Ashley-Overdyke explained.

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Courtesy: Chuck Smith
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Laura Ashley-Overdyke is Executive Director for the Caddo Lake Institute

Paddle fish are an ancient species dating back long before the age of the dinosaurs. The fish released now are anywhere from 8 to 12 inches in length and feature a long paddle-shaped bill or nostrum. Each fish is being tagged with a tiny chip that identifies the fish and where it was raised. If the fish survive, they can grow to 7 feet in length and weigh more than 200 lbs. And while they can be found in other waterways in Louisiana and Missouri, there’s only one place they can be found in Texas.

“So these fish are plentiful in the Red River, they’re not threatened in the state of Louisiana but in Texas they are not found absolutely no where except now again in Caddo Lake. So they are state threatened in the state of Texas and they have been since the mid 70’s,” Ashley-Overdyke explained.

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Courtesy: Chuck Smith
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Members of Texas Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sort and tad paddlefish for release at Caddo Lake.

The paddlefish were trucked in from the National Fish Hatchery in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Some fish have been fitted with radio transmitters to allow for real-time monitoring of their travel patterns throughout Caddo Lake. Past evidence from previously released paddlefish has been good, showing they have stayed in the water system and survived. Caddo Lake Institute has worked with various partners including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to return more natural water releases to help restore wetlands breeding habitat which help many plants and animals species, including the paddlefish.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' experience to Red River Radio having started out as a radio news reporter and moving into television journalism as a newsmagazine producer / host, talk-show moderator, programming director and managing producer and news director / anchor for commercial, public broadcasting and educational television. He has more recently worked in advertising, marketing and public relations as a writer, video producer and media consultant. In pursuit of higher learning, Chuck studied Mass Communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.