A fisherman stands on the bank of the Yellowstone River attempting to snag a paddlefish.

Opening day fishing below the Fairview Lift Bridge along the shores of the Yellowstone River at Sundheim Park

The annual gathering of big rods, big hooks, and big fun draws “snaggers” from across the upper Midwest.  From Michigan to Wyoming and beyond, anglers congregate along the shores of the Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers in North Dakota.  Surrounded by the beauty of the North Dakota Badlands anglers attempt to toss out their large treble hooks and heavy sinkers to drag near the bottom of the river in hopes of snagging a Paddlefish.  

Fisherman line the shore of the Yellowstone River at Sundheim Park east of Fairview.

Sportsmen gather early in the day to mark their spot along the Yellowstone River where they will cast their lines and reel them in repeatedly.

Woman in pink reels in heavy line.

The power this woman is exerting on her line as she reels it in shows that it’s a strength endurance contest to cast and reel in the heavy line.

A lone fisherman on the banks of the confluence.

At the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, a lone fisherman tries his luck.

A large treble hook to snag paddlefish

Paddlefish are snagged with large treble hooks.

Mick reels in a paddlefish, slowly but assuredly getting it closer to shore.

Mick B from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota returns to his spot every year. He says it’s not just the fishing, but the camaraderie that brings him back to Sundheim Park and the Yellowstone River.

Intently working the paddlefish he has snagged, Mick reels it in closer to shore.













Mick catches a big one


A fisherman reaches for the tail of a paddlefish

Once Mick has reeled the paddlefish closer to shore, another fisherman helps him bring it in by grabbing its tail fin.

A fisherman pulls the tail end of a paddlefsih out of the water.

The fishermen all stop to watch the first sight of the paddlefish snagged when a fellow fisherman pulls it up out of the water.

Holding up the paddlefish.

Mick’s second paddlefish of the day was a 35-pound catch.

Releasing the paddlefish back in to the Yellowstone River.

A friend holds Mick’s belt loop as he releases the fish he just caught. Opening day, Monday, May 1 was a catch and release day. Three days a week, any paddlefish caught must be released. Four days a week, the fisherman are required to keep the paddlefish. The females can be milked for their caviar. The fish are cleaned and filleted for eating.


We mild-mannered explorers are debating whether to try paddlefishing next year.  What do you think? Yes or no?

We’ve assembled a gallery of opening day photos taken at Sundheim Park near Fairview.  Click here to go to the paddlefishing gallery.

Here are a couple of links to read more about opening day of paddlefishing 2017:

Williston Herald story #1

Williston Herald story #2

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you can find out each week what’s going on in the beautiful Badlands of North Dakota!