Catching River Monsters! PADDLEFISH on the Yellowstone River

>> NOW THIS WEEK'S SHOW, WE'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT EXOTIC THAT I'VE NEVER SEEN ON FISHING TELEVISION HERE IN THE UPPER MIDWEST HERE.

WE'RE ON THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER HERE NEAR SIDNEY, MONTANA.

WE'RE SNAGGING PADDLEFISH BUT JUST A FASCINATING STORY ABOUT A FASCINATING FISH.

>> LOOK AT THIS PRETTY FISH.

YEAH, AND THIS IS REALLY A COOL OPPORTUNITY.

THIS HAS BEEN A DREAM AND NOW I'VE DONE IT.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> WE'RE ON THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER HERE NEAR SIDNEY, MONTANA.

WE'RE SNAGGING PADDLEFISH.

IT'S A PRETTY FASCINATING SEASON.

AND IT'S A VERY SHORT WINDOW, A SHORT SEASON, VERY HIGHLY MANAGED.

THE BIOLOGISTS ACTUALLY USE A LOT OF THE DATA THAT'S PROVIDED BY ANGLERS JUST TO BETTER MANAGE THE FISH, BUT JUST A FASCINATING STORY ABOUT A FASCINATING FISH.

AND SINCE THESE FISH ARE FILTER FEEDERS, THEY GET BIG.

YOU KNOW, THIS IS HARD MUDDY WORK.

IT'S NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

AND SINCE YOU'RE LOBBING OUT BIG HEAVY WEIGHTS AND YOU'RE RIPPING THESE RODS ALL DAY.

A LOT OF TIMES PEOPLE COME DOWN HERE AND THERE'S A LOT OF CAMARADERIE.

THERE'S PEOPLE THAT CAMP DOWN BY THESE RIVERS HERE AND JUST A REALLY COOL AND SOMEWHAT EXOTIC FISHING EXPERIENCE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> THE PADDLEFISH IS A, IT'S A NATIVE SPECIES TO MONTANA.

A LARGE-BODIED FISH.

CONSPICUOUS OR RECOGNIZABLE BECAUSE OF ITS ROSTRUM OR SOME PEOPLE CALL IT A BILL OR A PADDLE.

AND ORIGINALLY IT WAS THOUGHT TO MAYBE BE SOMETHING THAT THEY USED TO SCOOP AROUND IN MUD FOR FOOD, BUT, YOU KNOW, MORE RECENT RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES THAT IT'S, IT'S ACTUALLY A HIGHLY-DEVELOPED SENSORY ORGAN WITH LOTS OF ELECTRORECEPTORS THAT HELP THEM HUNT FOR THEIR PRIMARY FOOD ZOOPLANKTON.

SOME OTHER KIND OF CONSPICUOUS FEATURES OF THE PADDLEFISH WOULD BE WHAT THEY CALL THE HETEROCERCAL TAIL, KIND OF SHARK-LIKE.

THEY HAVE SMOOTH SKIN, NOT SCALY LIKE SCALED FISH BUT A BIT MORE LIKE CATFISH.

MALES AND FEMALES ARE EASILY DISTINGUISHED FROM ONE ANOTHER JUST BASED ON SIZE AND APPEARANCE.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> FISH ON! FISH ON, FISH ON, FISH ON! FISH ON, BOYS! FISH ON! (INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> FISH ON! >> OH, MAN.

WHAT POWER! OH, MAN.

(GRUNTS) >> WOW.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> GOTTA MOVE DOWN.

>> OKAY.

>> A LITTLE BIT.

>> OKAY.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> ARE YOU GOING TO TRY AND GET HIS SNOUT OR HIS TAIL? >> UNBELIEVABLE.

>> LOOK AT THE POWER.

(CHUCKLES) >> IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I'VE SEEN ONE OF THESE.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> HOLD UP THERE.

WE'RE GETTING READY.

MAYBE BACK UP A LITTLE BIT IF YOU CAN AND THAT'LL PULL IT TO THE BANK.

>> BACK ON ME? >> YEAH.

AND THAT'LL PULL IT TO THE SHORE HERE.

>> OKAY.

>> ALL RIGHT.

HERE HE COMES.

>> OKAY.

YOU PULL IT THIS WAY.

>> ARE YOU GOING TO GET HIM ON THE TAIL OR THE HEAD? >> NO, I'LL, I'LL.

.

.

OH, NO.

THAT'S A NICE, THAT'S A FEMALE.

THAT'S A NICE, VERY FAT.

>> I GOT HER.

>> YEAH.

>> OH MY.

>> GET THE SNOUT.

>> OH MY.

(LAUGHTER) >> OH, WOW.

WOW.

>> THANKS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY.

NOW, HERE'S MY TAG.

>> OKAY, I'M GOING TO CUT THIS.

>> I'VE WANTED TO DO THIS FOR SO LONG.

OH, I CAN'T EVEN GET MY TAG OUT OF MY HAT.

OH, THERE WE GO.

>> SECOND CAST? >> SECOND CAST.

>> OH, MY GOODNESS.

>> I TOLD YOU GUYS WE GOTTA GO.

>> OKAY, YOU'VE GOT TO PUT IT ON.

>> OKAY.

>> PUT IT THROUGH THERE.

>> NO, YOU'RE GOOD.

>> OKAY.

LOOK AT THAT, OKAY, NOW HOW DOES IT GO IN THERE? >> WELL, NOW — YEAH.

>> LIKE THAT.

>> AND THEN, AND THEN PINCH IT IN TIGHT.

>> THERE WE GO.

>> SO, HERE I AM, THE CAMERAMAN, AND JASON NEEDED TO TAKE A BREAK.

MY SECOND CAST AND THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

LOOK AT THIS PRETTY FISH.

SO TODAY IS A KEEP DAY WHERE IF YOU SNAG IT, YOU HAVE TO KEEP IT.

AND WE'LL HAVE TO BRING IT IN AND MY GOODNESS.

>> AND SHE'S TAGGED.

>> AND SHE'S TAGGED.

WELL THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY.

>> NO, IT'S AWESOME.

>> THIS BIG FISH HERE IS THE SPECIES ITSELF, IS ABOUT, 300 MILLION YEARS OLD.

SAME AGE A SHARK.

AND JUST LIKE A SHARK, IT'S A CARTILAGE FISH.

NO BONES.

IT'S ALL CARTILAGE.

AND THIS BEAUTY HERE IS A FILTER FEEDER.

YEAH, AND THIS IS A REALLY A COOL OPPORTUNITY.

THIS HAS, THIS HAS BEEN A DREAM AND NOW I'VE DONE IT.

BEAUTIFUL.

>> ONE GREAT THING ABOUT PADDLEFISHING IS IS THAT A LOT OF TIMES IT'S A, IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF A GROUP EFFORT OR A FAMILY EFFORT AND YOU'LL SEE FOLKS OUT THERE WITH THEIR A COUPLE, THREE GENERATIONS AT TIME.

IF THEY'RE ABLE TO BRING THEM IN THE KIDS CAN WATCH AND THEY CAN HELP AND BE A PART OF IT AND GROW INTO THAT WHERE THEY'RE ACTUALLY SNAGGING THEM AND THE FAMILY IS THERE TO HELP THEM AND BRING THEM ON ON SHORE AND IT'S A REALLY GREAT FAMILY SPORT COMPARED TO SOME AT TIMES.

AND WHEN YOU'RE PADDLEFISHING YOU NEED THE HELP AND IT'S, IT'S GREAT FOR FAMILIES.

>> I CAST IT OUT A COUPLE TIMES AND I SNAGGED A BIG PADDLEFISH.

IT FELT LIKE I HIT A BRICK WALL AT FIRST AND THEN IT STARTED RUNNING.

I COULDN'T REALLY REEL THE POLE BECAUSE IT KEPT TAKING LINE AND IT DRUG ME ALL THE WAY DOWN >> HOLD IT.

.

.

OH.

AH! >> THE FISH TOOK EVERYTHING ON THE SPOOL AND THEN SNAPPED THE LINE.

>> THIS IS HIS FIRST YEAR.

FIRST DAY, INCREDIBLE FIRST DAY.

>> YEAH.

>> COULDN'T ASK FOR MUCH BETTER THAN THAT, OTHER THAN CATCHING THE FISH.

GREAT TIMES.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> SO THAT PADDLEFISH IS A UNIQUE FISH NOT ONLY FOR ITS SIZE AND APPEARANCE BUT ALSO IN ITS BEHAVIOR.

IT'S A FILTER FEEDER FEEDING PRIMARILY ON ZOOPLANKTON.

IT'S PRODUCED IN THE LAKE ENVIRONMENT AND ALSO IN THE RIVER.

THIS CREATES THE NECESSITY TO SNAG FOR IT.

BECAUSE IT'S A FILTER FEEDER, IT'S NOT GOING TO BITE A BAIT OR A HOOK.

SO THE ONLY WAY THAT YOU CAN CATCH THIS FISH BY ANGLING MEANS IS SNAGGING.

>> PADDLEFISH ON THIS PART OF THE YELLOWSTONE IS REALLY POPULAR BECAUSE OF THE FLOW OF WATER.

WE HAVE ENOUGH WATER TO GET THEM UP THE STREAM FROM SAKAKAWEA SO IT'S A GREAT PLACE TO DO OUR PADDLEFISHING.

MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS DOES A GREAT JOB TRACKING THE PADDLEFISH WHEN THEY COME UP.

THEY TAG THEM.

THEY WEIGH THEM.

THEY REGULATE THEM REALLY WELL.

IT'S BEEN A GREAT PROCESS FOR YEARS AND THEY'VE DONE IT FOR LITERALLY DECADES.

(INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) >> SO, THE POPULATION ESTIMATES THAT ARE DONE ARE DONE ANNUALLY AND IT'S KIND OF A STANDARD MARK/RECAPTURE POPULATION ESTIMATE WITH FISH TAGGED.

CATCH AND RELEASE HAS BEEN VERY BENEFICIAL TO US AS A MANAGEMENT AGENCY BECAUSE WE SEND STAFF DOWN TO THOSE CATCH AND RELEASE DAYS AND WE TAKE A LENGTH MEASUREMENT.

WE ESTIMATE WHAT THE SEX OF THAT FISH IS.

AND THEN IF THE FISH IS TAGGED, WE RECORD THAT RECAPTURE INFORMATION.

AND IF THE FISH IS NOT TAGGED, WE GIVE IT A JAW TAG WHICH ENDS UP BEING IMPORTANT FOR OUR POPULATION ESTIMATES, FOR THE ESTIMATION OF SURVIVAL OF THESE FISH.

>> YOU KNOW, THE BEST PART, I THINK, ABOUT PADDLEFISH IS THE CAMARADERIE, BRINGING OUT THE FAMILIES AND THE INTERACTION AND THE INVOLVEMENT AND THE PEOPLE THAT ARE OUT THERE THAT AREN'T EVEN WITH YOU THAT ARE WATCHING.

AND EVERYBODY CROWDS AROUND JUST TO SEE IT COME IN BECAUSE IT IS A UNIQUE SPECIES THAT ISN'T CAUGHT VERY MANY PLACES AND IT GETS PEOPLE EXCITED AND THAT'S WHAT FUN ABOUT IT IS JUST TO KEEP THAT EXCITEMENT AND THE CAMARADERIE AND KEEPING THE FAMILIES TOGETHER AND THE INTERACTIONS.

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