Paddlefish snagging on the Yellowstone River in North Dakota

It’s a bit crazy, and fun, when opening day rolls around each year and paddlefish snagging season begins in North Dakota! Sundheim Park near Fairview has lots of energy as the snagging begins.




They’re big.  They’re ugly!   But, oh, do they taste good!

Tastes like tender pork, meaty not fishy.    


Weighing a paddlefish snagged at the MIssouri-Yellowstone River Confluence

It was a struggle to get this monster to the shore, but the fisherman who did assured us it would be worth it. Paddlefish steaks on the grill!

Measuring the length of paddlefish in North Dakota

Measuring the length of paddlefish is essential after snagging.




The Truth

At least, that’s what we were told when we joined the paddlefish snagging mania in North Dakota one opening day, Tastes like tender pork, meaty not fishy.   We were dumbfounded!   A fish weighing anywhere from 25 10 125 pounds could taste good?   Hmmm…..

When several fishermen brought in their catch for weighing, I thought I was joking when I remarked, “So, taste like chicken, huh?”   No one was laughing, and several paddlefish-snagging-expert-looking guys eagerly offered their favorite ways to prepare these prehistoric creatures.   In fact, a recipe book was offered, for free, from the guys at North Star Caviar

Turns out it’s a great publication from the Montana State University Extension Service and it’s full of recipes that seem worth trying, even if you don’t have paddlefish.  I’d try other fish as a substitution in some instances.   Marinated and grilled, smoked, cubed and fried, gumbo, jambalaya, …..   the list goes on and on.    

Woman snags paddlefish as big as her!

Andrea Warnke sure pulled in a big one, in fact, it’s about as big as her! She snagged a 100 pound, 72 inch paddlefish! Thanks, Andrea, for sharing this photo!




 Consider these recipes from Paddlefish Recipe Book, Montana State University Extension Service,  and let us know how you like them:

Blackened Paddlefish

  • 2 tsp. lemon pepper 
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • melted butter
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 Ib. paddlefish fillets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Brush both sides of fish with melted butter.  Rub both sides of fish with seasoning mix.  Place fish in a VERY hot heavy skillet.   Cook on both sides for about 2 minutes until outside edges are slightly blackened.  Arrange the blackened fish in a lightly greased baking pan and drizzle with 1 cup Italian dressing.  Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.  Serve with pan juices.  

Paddlefish Curry

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 1 large tomato, diced small
  • 3 bulbs garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder 
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Tabasco

Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent.   Then add tomatoes and cover, stirring for 20 minutes.  Add spices and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Add the paddlefish and cook until meat is done. 

**You can add different spices (ginger, turmeric, and coriander) but be careful about salt as there is a lot in the chili powder, Tabasco and curry powder.

Thanks to the Richland County Extension Office, Sidney, Montana (406-433-1206) for the informative recipe book!   

Paddlefish Recipe Book is free.

The Paddelfish Recipe Book is free from the Richland County Extension Service.

By the way, the extension service is looking for more ideas about paddlefish preparation and recipes. Contact them here:  Richland County Extension Service, 1499 N. Central Ave., Sidney, MT 59270   Phone 406-433-1206    Email:     Website:



Here are cooking suggestions from World Fishing Network:

And check out these recipes from Game and Fish magazine:


Let Us Know

Got your own favorite method for preparing paddlefish?   Got a ‘fish story’ about paddlefish?  Wanna share a snagging experience?   We’d love to hear from you!   Comment here, or message us at Beautiful Badlands ND

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.

Click here to read more about this year’s opening day of paddlefish snagging. 

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