Paddlefish: Fun to catch and wonderful to eat

Landing a snagged paddlefish is a fun challenge and the reward is eating the meat, which is sublime, says Sioux Falls,  South Dakota resident Kyle Weeg. He and his dad Mike both filled paddlefish tags for the third time in nine years. 

They started applying for for tags nine years ago and have been successful three times. Not only did each draw a tag, but each caught a paddlefish, too. The season is only open to South Dakota residents, and to see Kyle’s enthusiasm, paddlefish might be a good reason to move there.

This year, they had been walleye fishing from shore on Francis Case Reservoir below Big Bend Dam. They decided to try for paddlefish. Per state law, they threw 2/0 treble hooks with a weight on a length of line below. After trying for three hours, they figured out how deep the paddlefish were hanging and both of them hooked up. Kyle’s fish was 52 pounds and his father’s was 56. 

“There was only 10 or 15 people below the dam so it was not crowded at all and there were only two or three boats out in that area,” said Kyle. “Most people with boats go south of Chamberlain to the mouth of the White River to snag there.

“We used big catfish rods equipped with 65-pound PowerPro braided line,” he said. 

Paddlefish tags

The season ran from May 1-20. The resident-only season offered just 350 tags.

“It took us five years to draw the tag,” Kyle said, noting the previous two times he and his dad were successful they’d drawn tags for below Gavin’s Point Dam at Yankton. 

Paddlefish are filter feeders mainly eat zooplankton they strain from the water, making them nearly impossible to catch with bait. Snagging is the only way to catch them.

Kyle said that harvesting paddlefish means some good eating.

“They’re amazing as long as all of the red meat is taken out,” he said. “Cut them into small cubes and either fry them with your favorite batter or boil it and dip in butter. Hunting and fishing is my ultimate passion and they are by far the best tasting thing I’ve ever harvested.”