Our Nebraska paddlefish snagging season opened last Saturday. With all the flooding on the Missouri River this year our archery paddlefish season last July was canceled. We waited as long as possible to make a decision on the snagging season for this fall as it all depended on water levels and what parts of the river would be safe to fish. Eventually, we decided that it would be possible that at least some folks would be able to snag this fall and the decision was made to have a snagging season.
The best area for snagging paddlefish is in the tailwaters directly below Gavins Point Dam. Dams are barriers and fish naturally concentrate below those barriers. Generally, the closer a person gets to the dam in the tailwaters below Gavins Point, the more paddlefish they will find. Until last week, much of the shoreline there was still closed to access until it could be determined that those shorelines would be safe. The boat ramps below Gavins are open and operational, but at this time boats are restricted and cannot travel upstream as close to the dam as they have been in the past. When the decision was made to go ahead with the snagging season this fall, we believed that shore anglers might be restricted to only portions of shoreline that were safe while the boat anglers should be able to get to the fish. Ironically, late last week the shorelines below Gavins Point Dam were re-opened, but the boats are still restricted. So, the paddlefish snagging on opening weekend actually turned out to be the opposite of what we expected–reports are that shoreline anglers had excellent success while the boats had to stay farther downstream and did not catch as many fish.
Jeff Schuckman, fisheries supervisor in our Norfolk office, was up to the Gavins tailwaters on Saturday and took some pictures I would like to share with you. Sorry, I do not have names for any of the happy anglers. Congratulations to all of them and thanks for the photos.
You can see the opener was busy, openers always are. Our paddlefish snagging season runs for the entire month of October, so the pressure will drop-off after opening weekend. If a person has a snagging tag and can fish during the week, they will find a lot fewer anglers.
Shore anglers lining the north bank.
You can see where the boats had to stay in this photo.
I believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to try to get a buoy line positioned in the tailwaters and then boat anglers will be able to access more water upstream to that buoy line. The situation could change as the season progresses. I do not know for sure what will happen nor when; stay tuned and keep in mind the snagging season lasts the whole month of October.
And of course some “hero shots” of big fish!
Jeff said the shoreline anglers had excellent success and were snagging lots of fish. Many anglers were enjoying catching & releasing fish, and you can see some fish larger than the slot limit were caught and harvested.
One last observation: I have been saying all summer that when rivers flood there are a lot of fish on the move. During flood events fish movement occurs both upstream and downstream. So, I have been saying that there are going to be some surprises show up in the Missouri River as water levels drop and anglers are able to get back on the water. Jeff Schuckman said that they have a clerk doing angler surveys on Lewis & Clark Reservoir and had seen at least one chinook salmon an angler caught. Apparently, a few salmon have moved downstream out of the Dakotas!
NOTE: I was “out in the field” all last week doing a couple of different things. Yes, I spent a lot of time on the water and have some unbelievable experiences to share with you. I have talked to some already and so far have only teased; promising to post all the stories and photos on my blog. Once I get back in the office, it takes me some time to get caught up and I am teasing you with promises of trip reports to come. They are coming, soon. Please be patient with me.