It’s a snaggin’ party!

parking lot of paddlefishing boats and campers

You know something is going on when this many pickups and campers are parked at the boat dock at the Missouri Yellowstone Confluence Center.

It’s like a big rally or family reunion when the paddlefish snaggers get together on the Yellowstone River at Fairview. Right under the Fairview Lift bridge, they spend the day snagging prehistoric paddlefish.

Fairview lift bridge and paddlefishing

Snaggers with their salt water rods and reels line up under the Fairview Lift Bridge

The season limit is 1,000 paddlefish snagged.  If snagging is good, that means the season can end in less than a week.  On opening day, it’s a catch-and-keep day where anything caught can be kept after it’s checked out by game and fish personnel.

spectators paddlefishing sundheim park fairview lift bridge

Resting from the casting and reeling means good time to watch under the Fairview Lift Bridge at Sundheim Park.


On the Yellowstone

Hundreds of people from the upper Midwest, from Michigan to North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon collect on the banks of the river.  It can be hard work swinging the weighted treble hook out into the stream, let it sink to the bottom and then reel it in, hoping to snag a fish.

The angler tries to get into the deep channel or into swirling holes.  Some of them use boats with depth finders that can be so accurate that they can see the paddlefish laying on the bottom of the riverbed.

At the Confluence Center

Once a fish is snagged, it’s taken to the free fish cleaning station where North Star Caviar filets the fish and milks the eggs from the females for caviar.

From Spearfish, South Dakota, his first attempt and he lands a small 26 pound paddlefish, probably about 20 years old.


The largest fish snagged on opening day May 1 was 105 pounds and probably was about 40 years old.  The older fish are usually females and provide a good harvest of eggs. It’s illegal to sell the eggs, so the anglers give them to the fish cleaning crew from North Star Caviar.


Here’s the last look the angler gets from his catch before it’s filleted into steaks for him to take home:

We’ll have more of the story later this week, more video and more details, so stay tuned. Or better yet, just add your email so you can get a note in your inbox when the story is posted.

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This is what it looks like in still photos when a paddlefish is snagged — from last year at Sundheim Park outside of Fairview, Montana on the Yellowstone River.

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