Particularly encouraging to O'Bara is the sizes of fish being collected, and potential evidence that natural production might be taking place.
"We've found paddlefish up to 30 and 40 pounds in our surveys," he said. "We tag all the fish we stock, and we've caught some fish that didn't have tags. Those could be fish moving up the Ohio from farther downstream, or they could be fish from natural reproduction. We just aren't sure which."
Sturgeon reintroductions began in the late part of the previous decade, when DNR officials began importing them from the Midwest.
"For a while there, we were getting our fish from the Wabash River in Indiana," O'Bara said. "We had problems getting consistent numbers of fish, and we're no longer attempting to rear them in our hatcheries. Frankly, the sturgeon program has been a low priority for us the past couple of years."
He doesn't expect it to stay that way, though.
"Over the next five to 10 years, I anticipate us easing back on our paddlefish work and concentrating more on sturgeon," O'Bara said.
Though other species of sturgeon can grow quite large, the shovelnose variety stocked in West Virginia waters seldom exceeds 3 feet in length and 5 pounds in weight.
"We've received reports of people catching them," O'Bara said. "A lot of the reports have come from the Kanawha River from the London Locks upstream to the shoals below Kanawha Falls. We've also gotten one report of one being caught in the Little Kanawha River."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.