Fisherman Reels In Surprise Catch In Arkansas River

Friday, April 11th 2014, 10:44 pm
By: Tess Maune

A species of fish, hiding from researchers for decades, was discovered in one of the unlikeliest places, in the heart of Tulsa's stretch of the Arkansas River.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Department shared exclusive video with News On 6 earlier in the month, showing an incredible number of fish, including the shovelnose sturgeon. The sturgeon were once a common find in the Arkansas River, but now they're listed as a "species of special concern," and they're rarely encountered in the Arkansas.

Biologists always knew the fish were still in the river, they just couldn't pinpoint where, until a Green Country fisherman led them to the spot.

4/2/2014 Related Story: Unusual Fish Discovered In Arkansas River

"It's hard to know what's out there unless you're in it, that's what I think," said fisherman Greg Bowers.

On a normal day, you'll find Bowers with a fishing rod in hand and water up to his waist.

"Every day I go fishing and I see cool stuff, and that's why I keep doing it," said Bowers.

He said he's hooked a little bit of everything.

"Google it and I've caught it," Bowers said while laughing.

But the most remarkable thing he's reeled in is a funny looking fish.

"I seen what it was and like, ‘holy cow' and then I was like, ‘oh my God'," the fisherman said.

His surprise quickly turned to curiosity, so he got on his phone to confirm it, and sure enough, he'd caught a shovelnose sturgeon. And in the 30 minutes that followed, he caught two more, all less than two feet long.

"I'm thinking, ‘that is small'," said Bowers.

The day Bowers reeled his three surprise sturgeon, it was much different than a spring day, it was in the middle of winter, right around Christmas 2012, and it was freezing outside.

"It was probably about 10 degrees," Bowers said.

He thought the Wildlife Department might like to see the sturgeon, so he called them. Then he fought the ice-cold weather, and water, to keep the fish alive.

"I dug a trench in the river and made a big ol' pool so that the water could run through it, to kind of keep it aerated," said Bowers.

The department sent a dive team to the spot, which is practically in the backyard of their office.

"I think they're there all the time and I just think that nobody ever sees them," Bowers said

"We never even took into consideration that this might have been a better place to look for them," said Josh Johnson with the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

For whatever reason, the water was unbelievably clear that week. Divers could see for 20 feet and spent three days capturing the Arkansas River's rich diversity on camera.

"I think just knowing they're there is cool. I don't want to eat them or anything, and I only try to catch fish that I'm gonna eat," Bowers said.

Bowers said he threw two of his sturgeon back and the Wildlife department took the third. The day he caught the three shovelnose sturgeon, he was fishing for striper and sand bass.