Tomorrow is opening day for one of the most unusual fish in Iowa’s water- the paddlefish. Fishermen with the proper licenses will be able to fish for this funky-looking fish until April 30th  in the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers. Chris Larsen with the DNR told Radio Iowa they reinstated the paddlefish season back in 2014.

It started off with a bang when we first opened it up and then it has kind of settled down to about 300 licenses sold per year. The folks who are getting our from the survey results we get back --they are about 25 to 35 percent successful depending on the year

Paddlefish’s long snout has them pegged as an unusual-looking fish.

 They almost look like they belong in the ocean with that big snout sticking out there. There's really no other freshwater species in the United States that looks like that. They've been around for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years

This season’s cold weather could have an impact on how this fish’s season starts.

I think the biggest thing is ice floes. when it gets really cold like this, there are some pretty big chunks of ice that come floating down the river. And obviously, you are not going to want to be out in a John boat or any kind of boat when those big chunks of ice come floating through

To catch a paddlefish, you need to snag them at the bottom of the river, where the fish will be feeding on the plankton.

Behind the wing dikes, that rock structure that sticks our to deflect the river away from the bank,  right behind those you'll find anywhere from 30 to 500 feet deep holes  -- and in the wintertime, that's where those fish are hanging out.

And as always, there are regulations that fishermen must follow while out on the rivers.

He says there is a size limit -- and any paddlefish between 35 and 45 inches have to be released to protect the brood females to keep the population in the river.

The paddlefish season was put on hold when populations declined following a peak in commercial harvesting back around 1900. Larson says they started the season back up when studies were showing the fish’s population was doing well and would continue to do so.

From everything we've seen they're a pretty stable population. They travel from Gavins Point Dam (South Dakota) dam all the way down --we've had a number of our  Iowa tagged fish captured down in the Tennessee part of the Mississippi River. They travel hundreds and hundreds of miles and fish that they tag we find up here and fish we tag they find down there. So, they are a pretty mobile population.

via DNR
via DNR

If you are out on the water and happen to catch a fish that’s already been tagged, you should call the number on the tag and report the tag’s number, date of capture, capture location, and eye to fork length. More information on the season regulations can be found on the DNR's website.

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