North Dakota is good at extremes: extreme weather, extreme landscape and of course extreme fishing! Wintertime is often a time where our anglers focus on ice fishing, tiny rod over a stationary hole waiting to catch loads of panfish in below freezing temperatures. The exact opposite of that would be paddlefishing! Hunting a single 100+ pound fish with a rod as thick as a pool cue and twice as long in gorgeous May weather.
May 1st anglers will line the shores of the Missouri Yellowstone confluence area in search of the prehistoric-monster-hundred-pound paddlefish, sometimes called spoonbill. And forget the bait, snaggers tie huge treble hooks to heavy test line trying to get their hook into the mouth of a fish as it happens to swim by.
The season opens May 1st and a paddlefish tag is required, this can be bought at the same time and places fishing licenses are bought and are required in addition to the regular fishing license. They are $7.50 for nonresidents and $3 for residents. The season is is open until May 31st and is subject to an in-season closure. If the season closes early because the harvest quota is reached, an extended snag-and-release-only period will be allowed for up to seven days immediately following the early closure, but not to extend beyond May 31. Sunday-Tuesday are catch and release only days and Wednesday-Saturday are mandatory harvest days, all snagged paddlefish must immediately be tagged and kept.
Hooking a paddlefish is like hooking the bumper of a car, you’re in for one heck of a ride until it runs out of gas.