Lake Francis Case paddlefish
Paddlefish stocking in Lake Francis Case occurred sporadically from the early 1970's through the early 1990's. Beginning in the early 1990's this stocking became an annual occurrence. As a result, paddlefish numbers in Lake Francis Case increased over the past 20 plus years indicating good survival of stocked fish. Evidence of natural paddlefish production has not been documented on Lake Francis Case in recent history. Research conducted jointly by Game, Fish and Parks and South Dakota State University modeled the potential impacts of sport harvest on the Lake Francis Case paddlefish population and aided in bringing paddlefish snagging back to the reservoir. In May of 2012 the first snagging season since 1988 occurred on Lake Francis Case. The spring snagging season is open to South Dakota residents. Snagging permits were issued by lottery drawing, similar to how South Dakota's deer or elk tags are distributed. Game, Fish and Parks issues 350 resident-only permits.
Anglers have spent an estimated average of 3,017 hours snagging for paddlefish on Lake Francis Case during 2012 and 2013 during the 31 day season. That's nearly 100 hours per day! A majority of angling occurs in the Big Bend Dam tailwater and near the mouth of the White River. Anglers harvested an estimated 145 and 190 paddlefish in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Nearly 56% of anglers that snagged harvested a fish while an average of 14% of tag holders indicated they did not snag for paddlefish. The average catch rate for Lake Francis Case paddlefish anglers is 0.3 paddlefish/hour. This means it takes an angler on average about 3 hours to snag a paddlefish. Anglers reported releasing over 700 paddlefish per year during this season. Harvested paddlefish from Lake Francis Case average just over 43 pounds. Female and male paddlefish in the angler harvest averaged 55 and 33 pounds respectively.
Firm white flesh from paddlefish provides great table fare and can be prepared in many different ways. Many anglers coat the flesh with their favorite breading and fry it like they would any other fish. Try boiling the meat in lemon-lime soda and dipping it in melted butter for a tasty treat! Broiled or grilled paddlefish lightly seasoned and coupled with the dip of your choice will please anyone's palate. Any way you prepare it, paddlefish is delicious!
Future plans call for paddlefish stocking in Lake Francis Case to continue. The Lake Francis Case snagging season will continue as well. Paddlefish are a long lived species and angler harvest can have profound effects on a population. Over the next few years, Game, Fish and Parks biologists will monitor the effects of harvest on the Lake Francis Case population. A slow conservative approach will ensure continuation of this unique opportunity.