There are few more unusual fishing experiences than paddlefish snagging, popular in the late winter through the spring in many states throughout middle America.
One of the largest freshwater fish in the U.S., the filter-feeding paddlefish strains zooplankton as it swims with its large mouth open to filter water through its gill rakers.
Paddlefish grow to rod-bending sizes. The largest paddlefish caught in the U.S. was an Iowa fish that weighed 198 pounds, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Game & Fish shared a story in 2015 of a 140-pound paddlefish that set a Missouri state record. Catches of 30 pounds or more are common — of course, as long as you know what you're doing.
Anglers need big gear — rod, reel, line and even boat — to effectively catch the prehistoric-looking fish. Cast an unbaited treble hook under a weight and drag the rig with a jerking (snagging) retrieve. (see more tips and techniques below)
According to USGS data, paddlefish are well adapted to living in rivers. Paddlefish are known to occur from large rivers throughout much of the Mississippi Valley and adjacent Gulf slope drainages in North America. They frequent many types of riverine habitats but often seek out deeper, low current areas such as side channels, backwaters, oxbow and other river-lakes, and tailwaters below dams. Paddlefish are highly mobile and have been observed to move more than 2000 miles in a river system.
Without further adieu, check out the 10 YouTube videos below to get a better feel for what it's like to fight a paddlefish as well as see some technique tips if you're interested in giving it a try.
Otherwise, who doesn't like to see videos of anglers battling big fish?
75 lb Spoonbill!
Paddlefish snagging in Warsaw Missouri. Joe has a nice 75 pounder on. We figured he fought it for 15 to 20 minutes.
Paddlefish Snagging in Open Water
Tips from Spoonbill King on Paddlefish snagging from boats in open water. Great action in this video!
Missouri Record Fish Stories - Paddlefish
Paddlefish snagging season in Missouri opens March 15 and runs through the end of April. The state record catch for paddlefish was set in 2015, and it's a whopper of a story. See for yourself in this short video.
Snagging for Paddlefish at Meldahl Dam on the Ohio River.
How to Snag a Paddlefish
Here's a big paddlefish on the Missouri River. I happened to get lucky and catch the snag itself on camera.
Oklahoma Paddlefish - Catching & Cooking
Doing a bit of paddlefishing in NE Oklahoma with my oldest son on the Arkansas River. After getting back home and cleaning our catch we had to fry up a batch of fresh paddlefish.
Lake of the Ozarks Paddlefish
Adam gives a quick look at the depthfinder then Jeff barely hooks into about a 50 lb spoonbill on Lake of the Ozarks. We didn't ahve a gaff with us and lost this one at the boat trying to tie it up real quick.
Mississippi River Spoonbill Snagging
Snagging Spoonies on the Mighty Mississippi River on the boarder of Illinois and Iowa.