North Dakota paddlefish snagging season nears; Game and Fish to provide free cleaning service

North Dakota’s paddlefish snagging season opens May 1 and is scheduled to continue through the end of May. However, depending on the overall harvest, an early in-season closure may occur with a 24-hour notice issued by the state Game and Fish Department.

Although there are no regulation changes from last year, snaggers should note that North Star Caviar, which in previous years would clean all legally taken paddlefish in exchange for the eggs from the females, is not operating its station at the Confluence this year.

Instead, the Game and Fish Department will provide a free cleaning service, in operation from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on harvest days out of North Star Caviar’s station at the Confluence. A shuttle will not be available to transport fish, so snaggers who want their paddlefish cleaned must haul them to the cleaning station. Snaggers who clean their own fish are responsible for properly disposing the carcass.

As in past years, snag-and-release of all paddlefish is required on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Since opening day of the 2017 snagging season falls on a Monday, that is a snag-and-release only day.

Mandatory harvest of all snagged paddlefish is required on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On these days, all paddlefish caught must be kept and tagged immediately.

All paddlefish snagged and tagged must be removed from the river by 9 p.m. of each snagging day.

Those planning to participate during snag-and-release-only days need to have in their possession a current season, unused paddlefish snagging tag. Use or possession of gaffs is prohibited on snag-and-release-only days, and, if it occurs, during the snag-and-release extension period.

Legal snagging hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. One tag per snagger will be issued. Snagging is legal in all areas of the Yellowstone River in North Dakota, and in the area of the Missouri River lying west of the U.S. Highway 85 bridge to the Montana border, excluding that portion from the pipeline crossing (river mile 1,577) downstream to the upper end of the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Management Area (river mile 1,565).

If the season closes early because the harvest cap is reached, an extended snag-and-release-only period will be allowed for up to four days immediately following the early closure, but not to extend beyond May 31. Only snaggers with a current season, unused paddlefish snagging tag are eligible to participate. Only a limited area at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers is open to this extended season snagging opportunity.

All paddlefish snaggers must possess a paddlefish tag in addition to a valid fishing license. Cost of a paddlefish tag is $10 for residents and $25.50 for nonresidents.

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