Paddlefishing

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

the hook eye and pull it tight.

Loop the line below the hook, bring the loop over the treble points and tighten it on the shank.

Repeat the last step, but finish with a loop around only one of the hook points. This rigging keeps hooks from dangling.

How to Snag for Paddlefish

A boat with a depth finder is probably the most useful tool for a paddlefish snagger. Usually, paddlefish stay near the bottom, often congregating in deep holes near drop-offs. Paddlefish display as large images on most modern depth finders. Good electronics also help you stay in the main channel and avoid most underwater obstacles.

It’s sometimes possible to “troll” for paddlefish. Let out enough line so the hooks are a good distance from the boat and you can feel the sinker hitting the bottom. Troll just fast enough to keep the slack out of your line.

When snagging for paddlefish, use a sweeping motion, swinging the rod toward the boat and then releasing it back in the other direction, preventing excessive slack in the line. Use your legs and back to lessen arm fatigue.

Some anglers prefer to snag from set locations on the bank. For the most part, the equipment is the same as that used in boat snagging. It is important to use a rod that allows you to cast your hooks a long way from the bank. A sweeping motion jerks the hook through the water, followed by reeling to take up slack from the jerk. Several of the areas mentioned above are traditional haunts for bank snaggers and allow good open access to the water.

Whether you cast or troll, set the drag so you can barely pull line off the spool with your hand. It should be tight enough that it won’t slip when you jerk or come into contact with a fish, but loose enough that it will disengage if you get hung up or when a large fish makes a run.

You must possess a valid fishing permit if you are snagging or driving the boat being used. Once you have taken two legal paddlefish into your possession, you cannot continue snagging for any other species of fish that day.

Preparing Your Catch

To clean a paddlefish, hang the fish by its rostrum (nose) at a convenient height and cut in a circle through the meat above the tail down to the tough lining of the notochord. This cartilage is the backbone of a paddlefish and has the texture of dry silicone. Rotate the tail back and forth to break the outer lining of the notochord, then pull downward to remove its outer end. This will let blood drain from the fish.

Next, start behind the gill cover and cut in toward the casing of the notochord. You will now be able to slice fillets off the fish by moving the knife toward the tail, along the notochord lining on both sides of the fish.

With the fillets skin-side down on a sturdy board, slice the flesh free from the skin. Also remove the V-shaped piece of red or dark meat that runs down the center of the fillet.

Rinse and soak your catch in saltwater until you are ready to cook it. You can batter and deep-fry paddlefish pieces, or cut the fillets into 1-inch thick “steaks” and cook them on the grill. Paddlefish flesh is very firm and contains enough fat that it will not dry out on the grill as quickly as most fish. Try soaking the steaks in your favorite marinade or covering them with lemon pepper before grilling.

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