Each spring thousands of anglers travel to the Lake of the Ozarks in hopes of hooking into a pre-historic giant. The American paddlefish has been known to inhabit earth for over 300 million years, and can only be found in the lakes, rivers, and streams of the Mississippi river basin. While you can find paddlefish all throughout the Midwest, the Lake of the Ozarks and Osage River Basin is home to one of the largest paddlefish populations in the world. These creatures are rather bizarre in appearance, with a large mouth and a long tapering bill.
The paddlefish is also unique in that they are filter feeders and do not chase traditional lures and baits. Since you cannot catch them with traditional methods, anglers will target these fish with a heavy snagging approach. To start out you will need a heavy 6-8ft snagging rod paired with a large level wind reel that is spooled with 80-100lb braided line. For tackle you will need a 16-20oz bank sinker and a large 10/0 -12/0 treble hook.
Snagging season runs from March 15th-April 30th. At this time the paddlefish will be migrating up the major rivers and tributaries in search of spawning grounds. The best place to locate these fish is in the deep holes of the main river channel. One popular way to locate these fish is to use a sonar graph to look for large arches, which indicate big spoonbill in the area. Once you think you have located a good spot, position your boat in the channel and drift slowly at 1.5-3mph. Drop your rig down and make a sweeping action with your rod until you hook up. If you happen to catch one, make sure that the fish is a legal 34” keeper by measuring it from the eye to the fork in the tail.
Sweeping a big rod all day may seem like a lot of work, but these fish can grow to well over 100 pounds and they put up a hefty fight once hooked. So if you put in the work and have a little luck on your side, you may be rewarded with the biggest fish you have ever caught. Check out the Crappie+ section of Bassingbob.com for a great demonstration of how Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide Jack Uxa goes after these monster fish.