Montana’s 2011 Paddlefish Seasons Set to Open

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is again
taking a conservative approach to managing the state’s unique
populations of paddlefish.

Fisheries managers in FWP’s Regions 6 & 7 say paddlefish
reproduction has been poor or absent in recent years because of
cold water releases out of Fort Peck Dam, extended drought, and
corresponding low water flows and other environmental
factors.

These factors, combined with increased fishing pressure on adult
paddlefish, makes more conservative management of these long-lived
fish essential. The one exception is the Missouri River above Fort
Peck, where conditions have been favorable for limited natural
reproduction.

All paddlefish anglers should obtain a copy of the Montana 2011
paddlefish regulations, which include specific rules for each of
the different seasons and river stretches. Some of the regulation
highlights are:

On the upper Missouri River section (upstream from Fort Peck Dam to
Fort Benton) the season opens May 1. The fishery will again be
managed with a 500-fish harvest quota, and the harvest season will
close on a 24-hour notice. Once the quota is reached,
catch-and-release fishing will continue until June 15. Specific
fishing hours apply (6 a.m. – 9 p.m., MST), and there is no night
snagging allowed. Anglers should call the Missouri River Hotline at
406-464-2169 for current information on harvest status. A white
paddlefish tag is required for this stretch of river and all
paddlefish captured must be either tagged and kept or immediately
released. Catch-and-release snagging is open May 1 to June 15.
Anglers are reminded that all catch-and-release paddlefish must be
released immediately and may not be gaffed or lifted out of the
water.

The paddlefish season on the Yellowstone River and Missouri River
downstream of Fort Peck Dam begins May 15. The daily fishing hours
are6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (MST). Harvest days are Tuesday, Wednesday,
Friday and Saturday. The harvest season will close within 24 hours
notice if it appears that the harvest quota of 1,000 fish may be
reached or exceeded. The harvest season will close immediately at
Intake Fishing Access Site when it is estimated the harvest target
has been reached. Catch-and- release snagging for paddlefish in the
Yellowstone River and the Missouri River downstream of Fort Peck
Dam is only allowed at Intake Fishing Access Site.
Catch-and-release days at Intake are Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
Following the paddlefish harvest closure catch-and-release snagging
will continue only at Intake Fishing Access site for 10 consecutive
days following the closure date or through June 30, whichever comes
first. A yellow paddlefish tag is required for this stretch of
river and must be properly placed on the first paddlefish caught on
a harvest day. Anglers can access the Glendive Chamber of Commerce
Web site at http://www.glendivechamber.com or call the FWP Region 7
office in Miles City at 406-234-0900 to find the current number of
harvested paddlefish at Intake Fishing Access Site.

In the Fort Peck Dredge Cuts area downstream from Fort Peck Dam, a
special archery season for paddlefish will be open from July 1
through Aug. 31. A blue paddlefish tag is required for this
location.

Other selected paddlefish regulations include:

An 8/0 maximum hook-size restriction for all river stretches that
are open to paddlefishing;

Only one paddlefish can be harvested per season per angler;

Special handling and transporting rules apply;

The color coding on paddlefish tags is: yellow for the Yellowstone
River and lower Missouri River; white for the upper Missouri River
above Fort Peck Dam; and blue for the Dredge Cuts area below Fort
Peck Dam for archery paddlefishing. The appropriate tag is required
to fish for paddlefish in each of these river sections, and anglers
must choose only one stretch of river to fish;

All harvested fish must be properly tagged and should be reported
to FWP creel clerks working onsite as quickly as possible;

When a paddlefish is captured and tagged, the fish must be removed
from the river by the end of that day (9 p.m.).

“Because river conditions and fishing pressure from anglers can
change quickly, anglers are advised to check on paddlefish harvest
status before they leave home,” said Region 6 Fisheries Manager
Steve Dalbey. “That one call could save a lot of traveling time
just to find the season has already closed or is close to being
finished.”

For more on the paddlefish seasons, see the FWP Web site at
fwp.mt.gov under “Fishing” and “Regulations” and “Eastern District”
than click on “Paddlefish Regulations” for a pdf file or pick up a
copy of the 2011 paddlefish pamphlet with all the current
paddlefish regulations at FWP offices or other license
providers.

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