Paddlefish Closes Below Harvest Target
The 2023 paddlefish season on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers is now over, with a total estimated harvest of 776 paddlefish.
After monitoring two paddlefish seasons (2022 and 2023) with open river passage at Intake Dam, the new normal appears to be a dispersed fishery between the state line to Tongue River confluence at Miles City and a full season length (May 15June 30) without a need for an early in-season closure if anglers near the 1,000-fish harvest target. With a general perspective of how the fish and anglers respond to open river passage at Intake, some significant paddlefishing regulation changes will be proposed for the 2025 paddlefish season. Deadlines for proposed changes for the 2024 paddlefish season were due prior to the end of the 2023 paddlefish season, preventing submission of changes until the 2025 season.
The free paddlefish cleaning service at Intake was utilized by numerous paddlefish anglers in 2023. Despite only 79 paddlefish being harvested at Intake, an addition 253 fish (mostly from Sidney Bridge) were transported by anglers to the Intake station for cleaning. This service provides a significant amount of biological and harvest data to be collected at one location. Discussions will explore the ability to provide this service in 2024.
Region 7 fisheries manager Mike Backes thanks everyone who reported a harvested fish, submitted a jaw section for aging or jaw tag return, or assisted by providing harvest and creel data. Anglers who submitted a jaw tag return will receive a tag return letter from FWP this fall thanking them for the information and explaining known details about the tagged fish. Anglers who submitted a jaw section for aging at a self-reporting station or anglers requesting information for fish processed at Intake will also receive a letter about the fish’s age. Provided the jaw samples are usable for aging, these second letters will be sent when jaw aging is complete, normally December- February. Following are additional details and information summarizing the 2023 yellow tag paddlefish season: Harvest location by number of fish and percentage of total: Missouri River 1 fish (0.2% of total), downstream of Intake Fishing Access Site 345 fish (55.1%), Intake FAS 79 fish (12.6%), and upstream of Intake 201 (32.1%).
Harvest reporting location by percentage: Intake creel station 51.5%, roving creel 1.9%, angler self-reporting station 26.6%, or phone hotline and MyFWP 19.9%.
Paddlefish jaw collected for aging: 323 at Intake station, 77 by anglers at self-reporting stations.
Fish caught with jaw tags: 196 Percent females harvested: 55.2% Largest and smallest fish: 110 pounds and 16 pounds Total paddlefish tag sales: 2,176