As the paddlefish's popularity has increased in Montana over the past few years, the Fish and Wildlife Commission is now creating a paddlefish lottery system.
The Upper Missouri River in Montana is the home to prehistoric paddlefish, and because of that, the numbers of anglers in the area has continued rising to absurd levels. While the paddlefish season runs from "May 1 to June 15, there is still a 500-fish quota."
However, this quota was often met in record time on a first-fish, first-catch basis. In 2014, the quota was capped in only four days, while 2015 took slightly longer with 19 days. For this reason alone, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are introducing a lottery system, previously approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Anglers will be able to apply for one of the 750 tags from February 1 to March 31, and "successful applicants may harvest a fish anytime during the season." This takes the pressure off for both professional and recreational anglers as before, boats would line up for the chance to fish in the first week or so of the season.
The lottery system is a change from the unlimited tags system that was implemented before, where the quota was able to be met in less than a month on average. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks listened to anglers who stated that they just simply felt that they had to be there and ready on opening day or immediately after to even have a chance at the elusive and popular prehistoric fish.
In addition, the fishery where the paddlefish are located, on the Upper Missouri between Fort Benton and Fort Peck Lake, is one of the most unique in Montana. The fossil records for the prehistoric fish date back to around 60 million years ago.
If you're interested in obtaining a tag, you can apply online starting today, Feb. 1.