A paddlefish. (DNR photo)

Licenses for a chance to snag one of the state’s most unique fish are now on sale. The DNR’s Missouri River fisheries supervisor, Chris Larson, says paddlefish licenses are on sale through January 7th.

“It’s one fish per license that you can purchase two licenses of there’s some available after January one,” he says.
The season starts February 1st and runs through April 30th on the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers. The paddlefish season returned in 2015 and Larson says there are still many who like to participate.

“It’s kind of remained pretty steady the last few years, it’s been around 300 to 400 licenses sold per year. Most of the non residents only sell out — there are 50 non-resident licenses — but we have plenty of resident licenses available,” he says.
Paddlefishing stopped in 1986 to protect fish numbers, and Larson says they have done okay since things restarted.

“They’ve remained stable over our sampling. We did some sampling back in the middle 2000s and Nebraska and Missouri also look at their populations,” Larson says. “They’re all pretty steady as far as the numbers go, and paddlefish move all up and down the river. They go from Gavin’s Point Dam up north of Sioux City, all the way down to Tennessee and back.”

Paddlefish are snagged on the bottom of the river with heavy duty rods and 50 to 100 pound test line. Larson says you need to physically be ready because snagging involves more work than simply dropping a line in the water and waiting — but he says it’s also not that difficult to do. The drought has left water levels lower in the Missouri — which Larson says may be a good thing for those seeking the paddlefish.

“It should probably help concentrate the fish into the deeper pools. So yes, it could be an advantage advantageous season depending on what Mother Nature does with snowfall and snow melt and stuff,” he says. I know in the past I’ve heard from different paddlefish anglers that they do better earlier in the season before the fish start moving up river. And sometimes they do better later in the season because it’s been too cold and the fish aren’t moving yet. So it kind of varies from year to year.”

A resident paddlefish license costs $25.50 and a nonresident license is $49. You must also have a valid Iowa fishing license. For more information about Iowa’s special paddlefish season, visit www.iowadnr.gov/paddlefish.

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