In 1988, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (ADWFF) suspended the commercial and recreational harvest of paddlefish in Alabama. This action was in response to a rapid decline of Alabama paddlefish stocks following an increase in the commercial harvest during the early 1980s. In recent years, biological sampling of paddlefish by Fisheries Section biologists has demonstrated that the species has recovered to the point where regulated commercial harvests in Alabama would provide additional data that could be used to develop a long-term management plan for a sustainable paddlefish fishery. Beginning in 2013, ADWFF established the first of these regulated harvest seasons.
In 2017, ADWFF will implement a fifth limited season for the commercial harvest of paddlefish in three specific sections of the Alabama River. In addition, ADWFF will implement an experimental one-year paddlefish season in the upper reach of Guntersville Reservoir on the Tennessee River. Only 20 commercial fishing permits will be issued for these seasons, which will last from February 1 through March 21, 2017.
For the Alabama River season, only Alabama residents that held a 2015-16 Alabama Freshwater Commercial Fishing License and nonresidents that held an equivalent 2016 Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois or Missouri Resident Commercial Roe Fish Harvester License will be eligible to submit entries for these permits. Residents of these states are eligible because only these four states allow Alabama residents to commercially fish for paddlefish in their waters. Eligible entries will be randomly drawn for the 15 paddlefish harvest permits.
For the experimental Guntersville Reservoir paddlefish season, only individuals that previously held a paddlefish harvester permit during one or more of the Alabama River paddlefish seasons during the years 2013-2016 will be eligible to submit entries for permits. This additional eligibility requirement is necessary due to the need for ADWFF to collect reliable fishery-dependent data during this experimental season.
During the 2017 provisional paddlefish season, the commercial harvest of paddlefish will only be permitted in three Paddlefish Management Areas (PMAs) located on the Alabama River and one additional experimental PMA in Guntersville Reservoir. Five permits will be issued for each of the PMAs. The Alabama River PMAs include 59.6 miles of river reach, in two sections, downstream of Robert F. Henry Lock and Dam (Jones Bluff) in Lowndes, Autauga and Dallas counties; a 46.0 - mile reach downstream of Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam in Wilcox and Monroe Counties; and a 44.4 - mile reach downstream of Claiborne Lock and Dam in Monroe and Clarke counties. The Guntersville Reservoir PMA is limited to 28.6 river miles between the Highway 36 bridge near Scottsboro, AL and the railroad bridge crossing the Tennessee River near Bridgeport, AL
Commercial fishing for paddlefish will only be permitted in these PMAs during daylight hours Monday through Friday during the specified seasons.
For Paddlefish Harvest Regulations see: Paddlefish Management Areas and Seasons Established (Regulation 220-2-.155)
Guntersville Paddlefish Management Area Regulation (pending)