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, southwest of Williston, North Dakota.

It’s like a big rally or family reunion when the paddlefish snaggers get together on the Missouri River at the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center, or on the Yellowstone River at Fairview, North Dakota.  

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 number of paddlefish which can be harvested can vary from year to year.  Specific North Dakota regulations can be found here:  Snag a Paddlefish in North Dakota.  

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. If snagging is good, the season can end in less than a week. 

How to Tag a Paddlefish, information from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Find more information here:

How to Tag a Paddlefish, information from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Find more information here:

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 Yellowstone River in western North Dakota and eastern Montana.  

It can be hard work swinging the weighted treble hook out into the stream, letting it sink to the bottom and then reeling it in, hoping to snag a fish.

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.

Holding up the paddlefish.

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

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 one past opening day 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:

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Eat Them!

Did you know that these ugly fish are edible?  Yup! Some people really like them!  Investigate cooking advice for paddlefish here:  These Monsters are Edible!

This is how it looks when a paddlefish is snagged — at Sundheim Park outside of Fairview, North Dakota/Montana on the Yellowstone River.

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Learn about the Hub of Western North Dakota, the best place to stay and play, here: Watford City, the center of it all!