Harvest Potential of Paddlefish Stocks in Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee

Mark-recapture techniques were used during spring 1982 and 1983 to estimate the abundance of harvestable size paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) in Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee. Results indicated a harvestable population in 1982 of 3,421 fish (95% confidence interval of 2,184 to 6,665). Aging studies indicated a relatively young population with an abrupt decrease in survival after the ninth year. This decrease was attributed to extreme fishing mortality on these older age classes before July 1980 when Watts Bar Reservoir was closed to net fishing. Estimated annual growth of adult paddlefish was 27.4 mm for males and 31.2 mm for females. Age at maturity was estimated at 5 to 6 years for males and 8 years for females. Males constituted 76% and 60% of the sample in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Fort Loudoun tailwater was identified as the probable spawning area for most Watts Bar Reservoir paddlefish.

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