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Anglers fishing the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers this spring have a new angling opportunity. The new paddlefish fishing season opens March 1 and runs through April 15 (sunrise to sunset).
You need a special paddlefish license and unused transportation tag, along with a valid Iowa fishing license, to fish for paddlefish on the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers. These licenses were available from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31. A special paddlefish tag is not needed for the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers.
Paddlefish are filter feeders – they feed on microscopic organisms called zooplankton, so they can’t be caught with the traditional hook and worm. Snagging is the only efficient method of catching paddlefish. Follow these basic tips for snagging paddlefish: Basic Tackle Use heavy weights (from one ounce on up to 4 or 4.5 ounces), a medium-heavy to heavy rod at least six feet long, and braided line of at least 50 pound test strength. Treble hooks can be no larger than 5/0 or measuring more than 1.25 inches in length when two hook points are placed on a ruler. A gaffe hook or other penetrating device cannot be used as an aid in landing a snagged fish. Where to Snag Paddlefish prefer slower, deep water. Scout with a depth finder for pockets of deep water, or head to areas slightly downstream from wing dams. Paddlefish feed in the current coming off the end of the dam. Snagging Techniques Some anglers prefer to vertical snag for paddlefish from a stationary boat over a deep hole or while trolling through current seams and behind the wing dams. Fishing from shore, or anchoring a boat and casting into the current seam and calm water are effective in shallower areas as fish are spooked out of the area. Safety Rivers can change over the winter with new downed trees, snags and changing locations of sandbars. Be aware of your surroundings while boating. Make sure your boat motor is running properly after being stored during the winter. Be safe and have fun. Wear a life jacket and bring along dry clothes. Keep a knife or pliers accessible in case you need to free yourself from a treble hook or heavy fishing line. Pace yourself - the repetitive motions can result in sore muscles. Check the Iowa Fishing Regulations for snagging restrictions, length limits and daily bag and possession limits. Also check out our Iowa Fishing board on Pinterest for more great tips and tricks.