South Dakota's Lake Francis Case Paddlefish Snagging Season Opened May 1

FORT THOMPSON, S.D. – Lake Francis Case, a Missouri River impoundment, hasn’t seen paddlefish snaggers in nearly 30 years – until this week.

Thanks to successful paddlefish stocking efforts in the past couple of decades by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, paddlefish snagging has returned to the lake below Big Bend Dam, near Fort Thompson.

Paddlefish snagging is being allowed on the reservoir from May 1 through May 31 (2012) for those anglers lucky enough to receive tags in a recent drawing. GFP had more than 2,000 applicants for the 350 available tags in the resident-only season. Tags were issued by lottery drawing. In addition, the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Sioux tribes each issued 25 paddlefish snagging tags.

Annual paddlefish stocking efforts initiated in the early 1990s have resulted in good numbers of paddlefish in Lake Francis Case.

“One of the original goals of our paddlefish stocking program was to revive a paddlefish sport fishery,” said  Jason Sorensen, GFP fisheries biologist in Chamberlain. “Due to the success of our stockings over the years, we are confident that conservative harvest from this paddlefish stock will not have profound negative implications on the population.”

Paddlefish are a very long-lived species, and the Lake Francis Case population has some very mature fish. There is potential for anglers to harvest some extremely large paddlefish.

Anglers are reminded that gaffs and other hooked, penetrating devices may not be used as an aid when landing snagged paddlefish.

The season is open reservoir-wide on Lake Francis Case, and anglers also are allowed to snag paddlefish in the White River, from the mouth upstream to the Highway 47 bridge.

“Since this is the first year of the season, we cannot be sure where anglers will concentrate, but most activity will likely take place in the tail waters below Big Bend Dam and near the confluence of the White River,” Sorensen said. “This season offers a unique opportunity for anglers to pursue paddlefish in Lake Francis Case.”

Paddlefish anglers are not allowed to snag paddlefish from immediately below the Big Bend Dam powerhouse downstream to the chain-link fence (about two-tenths of a mile). Snagging hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Anglers are reminded that they must have valid South Dakota fishing licenses, paddlefish snagging permits and paddlefish tags in their possession while snagging. To reduce injuries to paddlefish, anglers are restricted to hook sizes of 2/0 and smaller.

Biologists will collect information from anglers and harvested paddlefish during the season to aid in managing the fishery.

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