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Upper Missouri River Paddlefish Season Starts May 1 Above Fort Peck Dam

Fishing - Region 6

Fri Apr 25 16:29:15 MDT 2014

This year’s Montana paddlefish seasons will again kick off on May 1 with the opening of the Missouri River section from Fort Benton downstream to Fort Peck Dam.


But the public needs to be aware that camping and other access will be limited at the James Kipp Recreation Area at the Fred Robinson Bridge south of Malta due to recent ice-jam related flooding. The area is a popular location for many paddlefish anglers and their families to base.


“Anglers need to be aware that camping sites will be limited at Kipp” said Bureau of Land Management Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner Mark Schaefer. “There’s also been substantial water-related damage to other roads in the area, including on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and on other public lands managed by BLM. People may not be able to go to all of the places they’ve been accustomed to getting to in past years. But the public boat ramp at the Kipp Recreation Area is fully open.”


For questions about the recreation area and other surrounding federal lands, contact Schaefer at 406-622-4015 or the BLM’s Lewistown office at or 406-538-1945. CMR officials can also be reached at or by calling 406-538-8706.


The paddlefish snagging season on the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam and in the Yellowstone River below the mouth of the Bighorn River opens May 15. The archery fishing season for paddlefish in the Fort Peck Dredge Cuts below Fort Peck Dam opens July 1.


“Anglers will need to keep a close eye on river runoff this year,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Fisheries Biologist Cody Nagel of Havre. “Snowpack in the Upper Missouri is roughly 130 percent of average and could produce high flows that will trigger paddlefish to move upstream and affect distribution of the fish.”


All paddlefish anglers should obtain a copy of the Montana 2014 paddlefish regulations, which contain specific rules for each of the different seasons and river stretches. There have been no changes in any of the regulations from last year’s rules. Some of the regulation highlights are:


Upper Missouri River

On the upper Missouri River section (upstream from Fort Peck Dam to Fort Benton) the season opens May 1. A white paddlefish tag is required for this stretch of river, and all paddlefish captured must be either tagged and kept or immediately released.

  • The fishery will again be managed with a 500-fish harvest cap, and the harvest season will close on a 24-hour notice if harvest is approaching the cap limit. 
  • If the 500-fish harvest cap is reached, catch-and-release fishing will continue until June 15. Specific fishing hours apply (6 a.m. – 9 p.m., MST), and there is no night snagging allowed.
  • Anglers should call the Missouri River Hotline at 406-464-2169 for current information on harvest status.
  • Catch-and-release snagging is open May 1 to June 15.
  • Anglers are reminded that all catch-and-release paddlefish must be released immediately and may not be gaffed or lifted out of the water.


Other selected paddlefish regulations include:

  • An 8/0 maximum hook-size restriction for all river stretches that are open to paddlefishing;
  • Only one paddlefish can be harvested per season per angler;
  • Special handling and transporting rules apply;
  • The color coding on paddlefish tags is: yellow for the Yellowstone River and lower Missouri River; white for the upper Missouri River above Fort Peck Dam; and blue for the Dredge Cuts area below Fort Peck Dam for archery paddlefishing. The appropriate tag is required to fish for paddlefish in each of these river sections, and anglers must choose only one stretch of river to fish;
  • All harvested fish must be properly tagged and should be reported to FWP creel clerks working onsite as quickly as possible;
  • When a paddlefish is captured and tagged, the fish must be removed from the river by the end of that day (9 p.m. MST).


“Because river conditions and fishing pressure from anglers can change quickly, anglers are advised to check on paddlefish harvest status before they leave home,” said FWP Region 6 Fisheries Program Manager Steve Dalbey. “That one call could save a lot of traveling time just to find the season has already closed or is close to being finished.”


For more on the paddlefish seasons, see the FWP website at under “Fishing” and “Regulations” and “Eastern District” then click on “Paddlefish Regulations” for a pdf file. Or pick up a copy of the 2014 paddlefish pamphlet with all the current regulations at FWP offices or any other license provider.