This year’s Montana paddlefish seasons will again kick off on May 1 with the opening of the Upper Missouri River section from Fort Benton downstream to Fort Peck Dam.
Anglers need to be aware that substantial flooding occurred around the Fred Robinson Bridge and in James Kipp Recreation Area this spring. As a result, camping will be considered “primitive” for most of the paddlefish season as crews clean up and fix damaged infrastructure. The access road and public boat ramp at the James Kipp Recreation Area is fully operational.
Access and camping areas on the north side of the river, including Slippery Ann, Jones Island, and Rock Creek campground are reportedly in good shape. The Rock Creek boat ramp is also fully functional.
For questions about the recreation area and other surrounding federal lands, contact the BLM Lewistown office at 406-538-1900. CMR officials can be reached by calling 406-538-8706.
According to Cody Nagel, FWP Region 6 Fisheries Biologist, “Flows are higher than average for this time of year, and currently at about 18,000 cubic feet per second. Shoreline and river access should still be good at these flows,” added Nagel.
“Anglers interested in river flows in the Upper Missouri should use the USGS website for information, particularly the Landusky gauging station,” said Nagel. The direct link for the USGS Landusky web page is http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=06115200.
For 2019, a total of 1000 paddlefish harvest tags were available through a drawing for the Upper Missouri. Successful applicants may harvest a fish anytime during the season, from May 1 through June 15. Those anglers not successful in drawing a harvest tag were issued a “snag and release” license for the Upper Missouri.
Additionally, anglers that did not participate in the tag drawing that want to participate in the snag and release fishery can still purchase an Upper Missouri River Paddlefish Snag and Release License online, at an FWP office, or at any license provider.
The paddlefish season on the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam and in the Yellowstone River below the mouth of the Bighorn River opens May 15, and the archery fishing season for paddlefish in the Fort Peck Dredge Cuts below Fort Peck Dam opens July 1. As in the past, anglers may only select one area to fish for paddlefish in Montana: Upper Missouri River (White Harvest Tag-1,000 tags available through the drawing), Yellowstone River and Missouri River downstream of Fort Peck Dam (Yellow Harvest Tag-1,000 fish quota), and the Fort Peck Dredge Cut archery-only season (Blue Harvest Tag).
Remember that all harvested paddlefish must be immediately tagged and reported within 48 hours. Reporting options include: on-site where fish were harvested (at check points like Intake Fishing Access Site or roving creel staff along the Missouri), on the phone hotline at 1-877-FWP-WILD (877-397-9453) or 406-444-0356, or online at MyFWP at fwp.mt.gov.
All paddlefish anglers should obtain a copy of the Montana 2019 Paddlefish Regulations, or 2019 Montana Fishing Regulations, which contain specific rules for each of the different seasons and river stretches.