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Paddlefish Season Opens May 1

Posted: Apr 19 2017
2017 Paddlefish Season Opens May 1 near Williston, North Dakota

The 2017 Paddlefish season will run May 1, 2017 through May 31, 2017 or until harvest limits are reached. Fishing is a year-round sport in North Dakota, with one notable exception. The ancient paddlefish species is the only fish with an in-season closure in the state. Snaggers need to make sure they have a valid paddlefish tag and fishing license.  The season often closes early depending upon how quickly 1000 fish harvest limits are reached.  

The large, distinctive fish can live to be more than 60 years old and many weigh more than 100 pounds. Within North Dakota, the population that resides in Lake Sakakawea and upstream in the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers is the only stock in North Dakota which currently supports a snag fishery. Paddlefish return annually to their spawning grounds, making the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers near Williston, North Dakota, an ideal place to snag one of these prehistoric animals.

Harvest only days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, while Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays will be designated catch and release days. Please refer to the North Dakota Game and Fish website ( and Williston Convention and Visitor Bureau website ( for information regarding available services for the 2017 season.  

The annual paddlefish season is an exciting time in northwest North Dakota. In 2016, 3,351 licenses were sold. Non-resident tags accounted for 651 licenses and represented individuals from 37 different states and provinces. An additional 1,375 resident licenses were sold to North Dakota residents.

Last year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department confirmed that a 71-inch, 131 pound paddlefish snagged by Grant Werkmeister of Williston was the heaviest ever caught in North Dakota. It broke the previous record of a 130 pound fish caught by 16-year-old named Alex Mergen in 2010.

“We are looking forward to hosting another paddlefish season at the confluence this year,” commented Kerry Finsaas, Missouri Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center Acting Site Supervisor, “Perhaps we will see another record breaker this year.”

For more information about the North Dakota paddlefish season, visit the North Dakota Fish and Game website at