Published April 26, 2012, 12:05 AM

Not an easy feat: North Dakota paddlefish snagging season opens on Tuesday, until end of the month

Fishing is a game of patience.

By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press

Fishing is a game of patience.

Snagging a paddlefish takes more patience than the average fishing trip. With the paddlefish snagging season starting Tuesday, anglers are anticipating an eventful season.

“It’s going to be extremely hectic and busy,” said Fred Ryckman, North Dakota Game and Fish Northwest Fisheries District Supervisor. “There’s fair number of fish in the river and flows are really low, so typically that bodes well for the fisherman.”

Despite every angler wanting to catch a fish, Jamie Trotter from Grassy Butte said that isn’t the only enjoyable part about paddlefishing.

“Catching a fish is a bonus,” she said. “When I go up there, I don’t necessarily go up there with the mentality that I’m going to bring a fish home. I just go up there to spend time with friends that I might only see once a year.”

The paddlefish snagging season is scheduled to last until the end of the month depending on how soon the harvest reaches 1,000 fish. The season could close early with a 36-hour notice by the NDGF Department. If the season closes early, an extended snag-and-release-only period will be in effect for anglers with a current season, unused paddlefish tag.

The biggest change to paddlefishing that came into effect this year is snag-and-release Sundays. This means snag-and-release days are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The fish can be harvested the rest of the week.

“We’ve had a number of snaggers say that they want to come out and take their kids to paddlefish, but they don’t want to harvest one,” Ryckman said. “We wanted to offer a weekend day and Sunday was certainly the slowest of the Saturday-Sunday routine.”

Snagging hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and one tag will be issued to each angler. Snagging is allowed at all areas of the Yellowstone River in North Dakota and the area of the Missouri River lying west of the U.S. Highway 85 bridge to the Montana border.

Catching a paddlefish can be a tough feat, just ask Trotter, who has been snagging for the last eight years. She has caught one paddlefish in 2008 that weighed 33 pounds.

“It was wonderful to finally catch one,” Trotter said. “I was really excited, but it was nice when it finally gaffed and pulled up out of the water.”

Baiting isn’t allowed while paddlefishing, snagging makes it more of a challenge.

“It does, because you could catch one first cast or you could cast for three days and not catch anything,” Trotter said.

The weather conditions in April have been ideal and the hope is the weather holds up during May.

“We have had snow storms and snow virtually every paddlefish season for the first week the last few years,” Ryckman said. “This year it probably won’t be doing that. They are forecasting rain, but that doesn’t seem to slow people down as much as snow for sure.”

Despite the weather conditions, paddlefishing has its moments of excitement, whether you have a rod in your hand or standing on the shoreline.

“It’s a fun time,” Trotter said. “I would highly recommend trying it sometime. Even if you just go up there and watch. It’s an amazing experience just to see the first being caught.”