Paddlefish Regulations
Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers Special Paddlefish Season

Licenses on Sale: December 15, 2016 - January 31, 2017
Season Dates: March 1 - April 15, 2017

A special paddlefish snagging season is open March 1 through April 15 during the hours of sunrise to sunset. This season is limited to waters of the Big Sioux River below the I-29 bridge (both Iowa and South Dakota waters) and Iowa waters only on the Missouri River beginning at the Big Sioux River confluence and extending to the Hamburg Landing boat ramp. This includes all backwaters and sloughs and any tributary of the Missouri River at its confluence and extending below its Interstate 29 bridge.  

Printable maps of the of the Iowa-Nebraska boundary line for Woodbury, Monona, Harrison and Pottawattamie Counties are available via download.  The boundary line in Mills and Fremont Counties is the center of the river channel.

A downloadable GPX file with the boundary line for Iowa waters of the Missouri River is available.  Right click and choose "save target as" or "save as", and save the file to your computer (not to your device's card). When saving, change from XML file type to All Files, and type in .gpx at the end of the MissouriRiver_Boundary_Line file name. After saving to your computer, you should be able to add the data to your GPS. The saved file "MissouriRiver_Boundary_Line.gpx" should be universally useable on most GPS units. 


Quota and Fees:

An annual paddlefish license quota of 950 licenses for resident anglers and 50 licenses for nonresident anglers has been set to prevent the overharvest of this species. Licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and anglers are limited to one license with transportation tag.

The $22.00 resident license or $42.00 non-resident license is available for purchase from December 15 through January 31, only. Buy the license via the Iowa DNR online licenses sales website or the general Iowa DNR website or by telephone at 1-800-367-1188. The DNR will only issue a duplicate license or transportation tag during the month of February.

Anglers will receive their paddlefish license in February along with a packet of information that will assist them in having a successful season.


Special License Requirements:

The season requires a resident angler to have a fishing license plus a special paddlefish license. A nonresident angler is required to have a fishing license that is valid in Iowa plus a special nonresident paddlefish license. Resident and nonresident youth under sixteen years of age are not required to have a fishing license; however they are required to have a special paddlefish license. Youth under sixteen years of age must first obtain an Iowa DNR Custom ID number before buying a special paddlefish license. Customer ID numbers are available from any Iowa DNR license vendor.

When fishing for paddlefish, anglers must have a valid paddlefish license and unused tag. Anglers possessing a paddlefish license and unused tag shall snag fish for the purpose of catching paddlefish only. All snagged fish (paddlefish, other game fish and rough fish) except for a legal paddlefish taken into possession shall immediately be released alive. An angler cannot continue to snag after a paddlefish is taken into possession.

Hooks and Gaffe:

Hooks larger than 5/0 treble or measuring more than 1¼ inch in length when two of the hook points are placed on a ruler are not allowed. No gaffe hook or other penetrating device is allowed as an aid in the landing of any snagged fish. This is the regulation for Iowa waters.  If fishing in the South Dakota waters of the Big Sioux River, anglers are limited to 2/0 treble hooks (1/2” gap from shank to tip of hook).


Length Limit:

Anglers are limited to possessing paddlefish less than 35-inches or more than 45-inches. All paddlefish measuring 35 inches to 45 inches when measured from the front of the eye to the natural unaltered fork of the tail must immediately be released alive. To properly measure a paddlefish, use a flexible tape and measure along and over the center line contour of the fish while it is lying flat.

Measuring a Paddlefish: 

Measure a Paddlefish from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail.

Measure from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail. Paddlefish between 35” and 45” must be released.

Tagging, Possessing and Processing Paddlefish:
Immediately upon taking into possession a legal paddlefish, the angler must visibly attach the transportation tag issued with the license to the fish’s lower jaw. The tag must be attached in such a way that it cannot be removed without mutilating or destroying the tag. An angler cannot possess a paddlefish license or transportation tag issued to another angler or tag a paddlefish with a transportation tag issued to another angler. The transportation tag must remain affixed to the paddlefish until it is processed for consumption. The paddlefish must remain intact except for the snout in front of the eye until the fish reaches the final processing place. The “final processing place” is defined as the angler’s residence or the location where consumption occurs. The transportation tag is the angler’s proof of possession of the carcass.

Cut slit in jaw for Paddlefish transportation tag. Slide the Paddlefish tag’s tab into slot until locked.

Cut slit in jaw for transportation tag. Slide the tag’s tab into slot until locked.

Closed Season:
During the closed season, the possession of paddlefish on waters opened to paddlefish snagging during the season is prohibited.