Volume 1, Issue 2, February 2015 - Page 11

water, efficiently straining out the tiny aquatic plankton.

The protruding shape of the fish’s snout contributes to its name. Very small paddlefish do not have the paddle at birth, but it grows quickly as the fish matures. The paddle, as well as the fish’s head, and gill covers are covered with sensors that look like tiny dog tracks. These sensors allow the fish to find concentrations of food by picking up the weak electrical fields emitted by the plankton.

How the fish feeds also makes it more difficult to catch. These fish are not predatory, so baiting hooks and waiting for a strike does not bring results. So how do you catch a fish that doesn’t bite? Well it takes a little more ag-gressive approach. Anglers use unbaited, weighted hooks and drag, or jerk, them through the water. The term for this is “snagging” and it’s an indis-criminate method for catching fish. The practice is not allowed in many states.

Snagging in lakes is often done by trolling, or by vertical jigging out of boats. In rivers, weighted treble hooks are cast out and retrieved with a sweeping, snapping motion to hook into the fish. Often other species are inadvertently snagged in the process. Due to the paddlefish’s size a snagged fish can often be released and the fish will recover from the wound, however most anglers targeting paddlefish are

more interested in making a meal of the fish and tend to keep their catch. Strict bag limits are en-forced where fishing is allowed to help protect populations.

Paddlefish thrive in some lakes, reservoirs, and large rivers with ample room to roam. They spawn in the spring when temperatures hit the mid-50s and a large female can deposit up to ½ million eggs. Once laid, the eggs become very sticky and adhere to the bottom where they can be fertilized by the males.

Overall, paddlefish are a vulnerable species. Their biggest threats are over-exploitation by fishermen, polluted waters, and the building of dams and other structures that restrict movement and prevent the fish from reaching suitable spawning habitat.

Many states have taken notice of the plight of the paddlefish

and restrictions on catching, keeping, and selling parts of these fish. For example, the fish’s eggs (roe) can be made into very valuable caviar which has led to illegal overharvesting of paddle-fish in some areas.

The good news is spawning paddlefish in captivity and releasing them has allowed certain populations to continue while environmental factors are being addressed in the long-term.

Check out these links for more information on fishing for paddlefish across the Midwest


North Dakota

South Dakota






Paddlefish are often tagged by biologists after gathering size information. Later, if the fish is caught and kept, the fisherman can call in to find out how far the fish traveled and how much it grew.

When paddlefish are spawning anglers will line the shores hoping to hook up.


Obscure Adventures Magazine