Paddlefish Season On Yellowstone, Lower Missouri Started May 15

Miles City - The 2022 paddlefishing season on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers started, Sunday, May 15.

Harvest days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri. On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays, anglers are limited to catch and release of paddlefish, and only at Intake Diversion Dam Fishing Access Site. No catch and release is allowed upstream or downstream from Intake.

The first harvest day that was open in all the yellow tag fishing area, was Tuesday, May 17.

There will be free fish cleaning services at Intake, but no eggs will be collected this season.

Mike Backes, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fisheries manager for southeast Montana, said this week, "I have no guesses on the type of season we will have, considering a few fish are already at Intake, which historically doesn't occur until the river reaches flows around 15,000-20,000 cubic feet per second or higher. The small pulse of water last week that maxed out around 10,000 cfs was very turbid, due to rain showers, but was enough to stimulate some paddlefish migration." 

In previous seasons, increasing flows would trigger paddlefish to migrate upstream to Intake Diversion Dam, where they would concentrate in large numbers. But this season there is a new bypass channel around the dam, which could significantly impact paddlefish concentrations downstream of the dam.  

"Another unknown is how fish will react to the bypass channel," Backes said. "I'm guessing they will continue to move upstream, reducing any big concentration at Intake until a large pulse of fish arrives with much higher river flows." 

With low river flows and nice weather, the North Dakota paddlefish harvest season lasted just four days. Males dominated, accounting for 72% of fish processed. The cleaning station was swamped the first Friday of the season.

Backes anticipates the start of Montana's Yellowstone and Lower Missouri paddlefish season to be slower.

"In very general terms, I expect paddlefish harvest at Intake to be slow at least the first week, based on current flow predictions," he said. "Success rates may be higher in the Sidney area the first week, but I also suspect a few paddlefish could be caught upstream of Intake opening week due to the turbid river pulse that occurred last week." 

The 2021 paddlefish season was 45 days long, lasting the entire season from May 15-June 30. According to Backes, river flows never triggered a large fish migration to Intake. The harvest cap of 1,000 fish was never reached, so the season never closed. Estimated harvest in 2021 was 777 fish. 

Anglers may harvest only one paddlefish per season. You may only select one area to fish for paddlefish in Montana: Upper Missouri River (White Harvest Tag-1,000 tags available through the drawing), Yellowstone River and Missouri River downstream of Fort Peck Dam (Yellow Harvest Tag-1,000 fish harvest target), and the Fort Peck Dredge Cut archery-only season (Blue Harvest Tag). 

paddlefish anglers reminded of harvest reporting requirement 

FWP reminds anglers that anyone harvesting a paddlefish in Montana is required to report it within 48 hours. This is true even if anglers process their own fish. People can meet this requirement by reporting to the processing station at Intake FAS or by calling 1-877-FWP-WILD (1-877-397-9453) or 406-444-0356 or by visiting and clicking on MyFWP.  The numbers are also found in the Montana fishing regulations as well as in the paddlefish regulations pamphlet.

A harvest report should include the angler tag number, jaw tag number (if present), length (eye-tail fork), sex, date of harvest and harvest location. Instructions for reporting should be included when the paddlefish tag is sold.

Anglers not reporting a harvested paddlefish will not be eligible to purchase a paddlefish tag the following year.

paddlefish harvest updates can be obtained by calling the Region 7 office at 406-234-0900, or by visiting the Facebook page at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks – Region 7.


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