Fisherman beats North Dakota paddlefish record with 131-pound fish

iStockphoto / Marina Vedernikova

A fisherman from North Dakota tied the Paddlefish record after catching a 131-pounder just two days into North Dakota's paddlefish season.

Paddlefish are one of the oddest-looking fish species in North America and are pursued by anglers throughout the continental United States. However, fishing for them requires unconventional tactics because the fish are filter-feeding and will not take normal bait on a fishing rod or reel.

The most effective method of fishing for paddlefish is “snagging,” and that’s exactly what it sounds like, and that’s exactly what Tyler Hughes and his wife did on the Yellowstone River on May 3 when the 131-pound paddlefish that set the state fishing record snagged their 10/0 treble hook.

Bob McNally of OutdoorLife was able to film the catch, which, after measuring and weighing, set the North Dakota state record for paddlefish. Tyler Hughes had unfortunately forgotten his fishing hook on this beautiful day and had to go and retrieve it when he realized how big the fish was. The footage mainly shows them trying to pull this tiny whale to shore over a muddy bank after reeling it in:

Tyler Hughes said OIL When he hooked the big fish around 11am, it was such a huge beast that he thought it had snagged on a rock or log. He says when it started moving, he realised he had hooked a huge paddlefish.

Hughes caught the fish on 75-pound test line and after putting two hooks in it on the river bank, they took it to a weigh station in Williston with a calibrated scale, where they cleaned the fish and traded it for the roe (caviar), of which they reportedly got about 30 pounds (!!!). The short paddlefish fishing season in North Dakota during which anglers could catch the fish only lasted from May 1-15, so there was a very narrow window of time in which he could catch and keep this massive specimen.

It weighed in at a whopping 131 pounds, which tied the state record, and was 74 inches long, three inches longer than the previous record. North Dakota Game and Fish announced in a press release that this catch officially tied the previous state record.

There must have been something in the air this year on opening day of paddlefish season across the country. Down in Missouri, an angler landed a world record 164 pound paddlefish on opening day, and it was the FIRST TIME in his life that he had ever fished for paddlefish.

The previous record for North Dakota paddlefish was a 131-pound, 0-ounce fish caught by angler Grant Werkmeister in the Upper Missouri River on May 7, 2016. This record-setting fish was caught on May 3, so there must be something in the air in early May that attracts these big fish.

At 131 pounds, it is by far the heaviest fish of any species caught in North Dakota. The next record holder is the Buffalo (fish) at just 61 pounds, 8 ounces, followed by the Muskie at 46 pounds, 8 ounces.

Anna Harden

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