It’s the day many anglers have been looking forward to- the start of paddlefish season.
And for some, there’s no better feeling than snagging your first paddlefish of the season.
“It’s something we’ve been doing for years now. Family trip every year,” says Bottineau resident Luke Wilkie.
For others, it’s a great feeling to have caught your first paddlefish…ever.
Caught his first paddlefish “They were sitting down taking a break and I decided to grab my pole and try it and luckily, I caught one,” says Allen Hecker, who caught his first paddlefish.
After catching the paddlefish, anglers are able to get them cleaned free of charge in exchange for their roe, which is sold as North Star Caviar.
And the cleaning station is likely where you’ll find Dennis Scarnecchia.
“The one thing we’ve been watching and we’re watching intently with these fish always is we’re trying to get an idea of whether we’ve got adequate reproductive success and recruitment,” says Scarnecchia, a professor of fisheries at the University of Idaho.
Scarnecchia’s been traveling to the area for the last 25 year to study the stock of paddlefish. And this year, is no different.
“An important part of the stock assessment that the ND Game and Fish Department condicts is knowing the age of the harvested fish. And so, with the paddlefish the best way to age them is with a piece of the lower jaw bone,” says Scarnecchia.
About 40 percent of the fish harvested last season were from the 1995 class, a year with ideal conditions of high river flows and riding water levels.
“This year, we’re looking for some younger fish coming into the population. We hope to see a few of these fish that were probably hatched in 2007 and 2011,” says Scarnecchia.
Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays are catch and release days.
But on snag and harvest days, like this one, many anglers are planning on taking their catch home.
“It’s going to feel good sleeping in tomorrow,” says Wilkie.
Season hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a 24 hour notice of the season’s end, once the harvest cap of a thousand is reached. There are four additional snag and release days following season closure.
For more information on the 2018 paddlefish snagging season, check here.