Doug Leier: Paddlefish snaggers buying tags online should plan ahead to allow for delivery by mail

If history is any indication, a few thousand people will buy a paddlefish tag and trek to the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.

Paddlefishing Confluence
North Dakota's 2022 paddlefish snagging season includes a noteworthy regulation change that involves the sale and distribution of paddlefish tags.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
We are part of The Trust Project.
Leier_Doug 2017.jpg
Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at

WEST FARGO, N.D. – May conjures up images of the first meadowlark on the prairie, stray migrating snow geese and spring turkey season wrapping up. We’ll also likely spot the first brood of Canada geese and find a few ticks to remove from ourselves or the dog.

May 1 every year also marks the start of North Dakota's paddlefish snagging season, and one noteworthy regulation change this year involves the sale and distribution of paddlefish tags.

Paddlefish tags are only available for purchase on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website ,, and during normal business hours at Game and Fish Department offices in Bismarck, Dickinson and Williston.

Long-billed curlews are a species of concern because of population declines, and they’re also seen as an indicator species for the health of grasslands, even agricultural lands.
Walleyes in Lake Sakakawea go deeper this time of year, and fish reeled in from deep water will likely die if released.
Levi Jacobson, North Dakota Game and Fish wildlife management area supervisor, talks about the setup with other agencies that own the wildlife areas in the state with host Mike Anderson.

Snaggers buying tags online should plan accordingly and allow a few days for delivery through the mail.

If history is any indication, over the course of the season, a few thousand people will buy a special tag and trek to the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers for a chance to reel in the state's largest fish.


Paddlefish commonly weigh well over 50 pounds, and the current state record tops the scale at 130 pounds. They are as big as they are unique, and hooking one is not a sure thing, as roughly only one in three people who buy a tag actually get to put it on a paddlefish.

Legal snagging hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Snaggers can only purchase one tag per year.

Snagging is legal in all areas of the Yellowstone River in North Dakota, and in the area of the Missouri River lying west of the U.S. Highway 85 bridge to the Montana border, excluding that portion from the pipeline crossing (river mile 1,577) downstream to the upper end of the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Management Area (river mile 1,565).

If the season closes early because the harvest cap is reached, an extended snag-and-release-only period will be allowed for up to four days immediately following the early closure, but not to extend beyond May 21. Only a limited area at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers is open to this extended season snagging opportunity.

Mandatory harvest of all snagged paddlefish is required on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On these days, all paddlefish caught must be kept and tagged immediately. All paddlefish snagged and tagged must be removed from the river by 7 p.m. of each snagging day.

Snag-and-release of all paddlefish is required on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Participants during snag-and-release-only days need to have in their possession a current season, unused paddlefish snagging tag. Use or possession of gaffs is prohibited on snag-and-release-only days.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at
What to read next
Members Only
It had been a few years since there was a decent blueberry crop where I pick, but this year the stars aligned.
Members Only
The final section of the book explores three renowned walleye fisheries: Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin and Mille Lacs and Red Lake in Minnesota.
This weekend will feature hot tempeatures across parts of the Dakotas with a little cooler weather to the east.
In this Northland Outdoors podcast, host Chad Koel talks with Juten, known on social media as Ali UpNorth. The Duluth resident is the lead Northland Outdoors ambassador, a group of social media and outdoor enthusiasts who help promote the brand.