Licenses are now on sale for the paddlefish season on the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers.
The DNR fisheries expert for the area, Chris Larson says there are a couple of options for getting a license. You can purchase one tag now through December 31st. There are 950 resident or 50 non-resident licenses and if there are any left over you can purchase a second tag from January 1st through January 7th. A resident license sells for $25.50 cents and a nonresident license is $49. You must also have a valid Iowa fishing license.
Larson says there usually are enough licenses for everyone who wants one. “The first year we sold almost 800 of the thousand that are available — but the last couple of years we’ve sold right around 400. You should be able to get one — obviously there’s no guarantee — but we have not sold out since we started the season in 2015,” according to Larson. Paddlefish are caught by snagging them as they swim on the bottom of the river. He says they’ve made some changes to try and get more people interested. One change involves the rules that required you to throw back any rough fish you snagged while trying to get a paddlefish.
“Anglers were upset about that and they also wanted a longer season,” Larson says. “So, we open the season earlier, its going to open February second through the 30th of April, which is an earlier start than when we started the season five years ago. You can also snag rough fish and keep those as well. So if you want some common carp or Asian carp for table fare,” he explains. It’s the second year for the adjustments that are aimed at bringing back those who tried paddlefishing and didn’t stay with it.
He says hopefully the people who were upset about not keeping the rough fish will come back out. Larson says you have to be specific in where you are looking for the paddlefish.
He says the fish in the winter will be found in the slow-moving deep water and the only place you can find that is the holes behind the wing dikes where the fish overwinter. You a limited to catching one fish when you purchase a paddlefish tag.
“You have to put the tag on the jaw — and as soon as you are out of tags you have to stop snagging. If you only have one tag and you snag a paddlefish and you are going to harvest it, you are done. You can also continue to snag the paddlefish and release them as well,” Larson says. You can find out more about the paddlefish season by going to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website at: www.iowadnr.gov.