The Recreational Snag Fishery for Paddlefish in Cherokee Lake, Tennessee

No information existed on the recreational snag fishery for paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) in Cherokee Lake in eastern Tennessee, purportedly the largest such fishery in the state. Therefore, a roving creel survey was conducted during the 15-day season in March 2008, 2009, and 2010. The fishery could be characterized as a a destination fishery in that 448 anglers in 239 parties drove an average of 80 km one-way (± 2.43 SE; range: 2-352) to participate. Most (67%) anglers were Tennesseans, followed by residents of Virginia (26%) and three other states. Most (80%) anglers had fished previously for paddlefish; they averaged 6.8 (± 0.3 SE) years of paddlefish snagging experience. Annual fishing pressure ranged from 1,674 to 1,838 h each year. Pooled harvest rates were low in 2008 (0.088 fish/h) and declined further in 2009 and 2010 (0.020 and 0.021 fish/h, respectively). Thus, fewer paddlefish were harvested in 2009 (41-42) and 2010 (39-60) than in 2008 (169-237). Harvested paddlefish (n = 56) ranged from 965 mm to 1,251 mm eye-fork length; the average length was 1,075 mm (SE = 9.6). Most (84%) anglers said they participated in the fishery primarily for its sporting aspects; 16% indicated that obtaining fish to eat was the most important reason. Only two anglers indicated that harvesting eggs was the principal reason they participated. The most common requests for changes to current regulations dealt with extending the season through the end of March, or starting the two-week season later (e.g., mid-March or early April).

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