Paddlefish snagging on the Yellowstone River in North Dakota

It’s a bit crazy, and fun, when May 1 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 snaggin




The Truth

At least, that’s what we were told when we joined the paddlefish snagging mania in North Dakota on opening day, May 1, 2018.  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!



Yes.  People eat paddlefish.  Word is, they taste much better than they look!


Check out this unique recipe from the Fisher Pants. website.

A less known but still delicious way of cooking paddlefish, Jambalaya is a tasty and healthy dish full of flavors, whose taste is rich..

Start preparing it by stir-frying a green and red pepper in about a quarter cup of water over high heat. Add garlic, onions, and ginger and mix everything.

Add chopped parsley, 16 oz. skinless stewed tomatoes and 2 pounds fresh paddlefish in the same pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, while still stirring it. Reduce heat once it starts bubbling, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes or more until the fish is done.

Put some cooked rice in the plates, and, after you remove the fillets, put them on the bedding to soak up the juice. Serve warm, garnishing with fresh chilies.

Paddlefish Gumbo

Here’s a recipe from the Montana Outdoor Radio Show:

  • Two pounds paddlefish or other fish that is firm
  • One pound freshwater shrimp medium size – or you can use salt water shrimp – cleaned and shelled
  • Two can chicken broth
  • One can sliced or chopped tomatoes with juice
  • One 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • Two 8 oz. bottles of clam juice
  • Two cups chopped onion
  • Two cups diced green bell peppers
  • Two cups diced celery
  • Two cloves minced garlic
  • One cup water
  • Half cup flour – mix well with the water before adding to pot
  • One and a half teaspoons sweet paprika
  • One quarter cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Half teaspoon dried thyme
  • Half teaspoon dried oregano
  • One teaspoon white pepper
  • Half teaspoon ground red pepper
  • One teaspoon hot sauce of choice
  • Quarter cup olive oil
  • Half teaspoon salt
  • Two bay leaves
  • Four cups long grain white rice

Pour the olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven and place on medium high heat. Add the onion,green peppers, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring often for five minutes. Add all the other ingredients except for the shrimp, fish and rice. Simmer for fifty minutes stirring often and then add the fish, shrimp and rice. Cover and simmer for five minutes or until fish is done.

 Blackened Paddlefish

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

  • 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 Stew with Bacon

  • one pound raw cubed paddlefish
  • three bacon slices, chopped
  • one onion, thinly sliced
  • one sixteen ounce can whole potatoes, drained and halved
  • eighth teaspoon  thyme leaves
  • fourth cup  ketchup
  • one teaspoon Worcestershire
  • fourth teaspoon pepper
  • one sixteen ounce can tomatoes

In a  two-quart saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon until just limp; add onion and cook until onion is browned. Stir in potatoes, tomatoes with their liquid, ketchup, Worcestershire, pepper and thyme. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add fish and cook about 10 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, stirring often. Makes four servings.


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!   Message us on our Facebook page Beautiful Badlands ND .  Email us at:

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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Watford City and McKenzie County. The Hub of Western North Dakota!

Watford City and McKenzie County. The Hub of Western North Dakota!