The 2018 Montana paddlefish season closed more than a week ago and Fish, Wildlife and Parks released some final numbers.
This year’s season took 15 days to approach the 1,000 fish target. That’s quite a bit longer than the three in a half days it took last year to close in on that mark, according to a FWP news release.
The 2018 harvest season opened May 15 and closed on Friday, June 8, and catch-and-release fishing just concluded. According to tallies, 714 paddlefish were processed at Intake Fishing Access Site near Glendive, and Backes estimates that another 194 fish were caught elsewhere. That makes for an estimated harvest of 908 fish.
Of the fish processed at Intake, 470 were females (65.8 percent) and 244 were males.
“Other than getting another education from Mother Nature in river flows and resulting fish migrations, there were a couple of noteworthy topics,” Backes said. “Approximately one in 10 fish was a small male, potentially from the year 2011. Sixty-two fish were reported via the mandatory reporting phone number; of those, 21 had jaw tags, 19 were harvested from the Powder-Yellowstone River confluence, two were from the Tongue-Yellowstone River confluence, and only one was reported from the Missouri River. One tag return came from a fish tagged on the Missouri River upstream of Fort Peck Reservoir.”
At times angler participation was lower than expected. It was challenging to predict when paddlefish would be grouped at Intake Diversion Dam on their way upstream to spawn. A pulse in river levels typically increases paddlefish migrations, but there were such high volumes of water at times this season – and multiple river pulses due to rain and continuing snowmelt – that fish were much more spread out this season.