Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Tennessee
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Scholten, G. D., and P. W. Bettoli. 2007. Lack of gillnet size selectivity in a commercial paddlefishery. Fisheries Research 83:355-359.


A commercial fishery for paddlefish Polyodon spathula caviar exists in Kentucky Lake, a reservoir on the lower Tennessee River. A 152-mm (bar-measure) minimum mesh size restriction on entanglement gear was enacted in 2002 and the minimum size limit was increased to 864 mm eye-fork length to reduce the possibility of recruitment overfishing. Paddlefish were sampled in 2003-2004 using experimental monofilament gillnets with panels of 89, 102, 127, 152, 178, and 203-mm meshes and the efficacy of the mesh size restriction was evaluated. Following the standards of commercial gear used in that fishery, nets were “hobbled” (i.e., 128 x 3.6 m nets were tied down to 2.4 m; 91 x 9.1 m nets were tied down to 7.6 m). The mean lengths of paddlefish (Ntotal = 576 fish) captured in each mesh were similar among most meshes and bycatch rates of sublegal fish did not vary with mesh size. Selectivity curves could not be modeled because the mean and modal lengths of fish captured in each mesh did not increase with mesh size. Ratios of fish girth to mesh perimeter (G:P) for individual fish were often less than 1.0 as a result of the largest meshes capturing small paddlefish. It is unclear whether lack of size selectivity for paddlefish was because the gillnets were hobbled, the unique morphology of paddlefish, or the fact that they swim with their mouths agape when filter feeding. The lack of size selectivity by hobbled gillnets fished in Kentucky Lake means that managers cannot influence the size of paddlefish captured by commercial gillnet gear by changing minimum mesh size regulations.