The paddlefish is one of those rare fish that will never bite. This bizarre shark-like fish only eats by filtering the water for microscopic plankton. And plankton are very difficult to put on a hook. Thus, the only method to catch paddlefish is snagging, generally with a large weighted treble hook.
In many states, the paddlefish is protected but in Oklahoma, snagging paddlefish is promoted. According to the 2012 Oklahoma Fishing Guide, the population is “thriving” and about half of the paddlefish anglers come from other states. The Paddlefish Research and Processing Center, near Miami, OK is an interesting facility. Funds resulting from this program help state biologists “collect important biological data to assist biologists manage this unique population.”
The chances of hooking this amazing fish, which can average 30-50 pounds (the state record is 125 pounds), increase in April and May when the paddlefish are concentrated over large gravel spawning areas.
“I think it was 2 ½ hours before I hooked anything,” wrote lucky angler Dr. Jim Long, Adjunct Assistant Professor with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The occasional fish surfacing kept him chucking across the river. When he finally set the hook on a bump, “she nearly pulled me in.”
Last week, camera ready, I watched a friend blindly heaving a large weighted treble hook into an Ovaltine-colored river. After half an hour, this activity seemed as futile as turning 180 degrees and lobbing into the woods, trying to snag a Sasquatch. (Check your Sasquatch season regulations.)
However, I still have my paddlefish permit… And it has been a while since something almost pulled me in…
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.