A prehistoric-era fish can be caught legally in Kansas beginning this week.
The 2017 paddlefish season kicks off Wednesday and runs until May 15 for the annual spring spawning run. The large, cartilage-filled fish species is only located in a few rivers across the state and offers an exciting opportunity for anglers to snag a monster. The world-record paddlefish, which was caught in Kansas, weighed 144 pounds and was caught in an unusual place: a 5-acre pond in Atchison County.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism guidelines state that paddlefish may be taken in posted areas inside Chetopa and Burlington city parks on the Neosho River; on the Neosho River at Iola, downstream from the dam to the city limits; on the Marais des Cygnes River below Osawatomie Dam, downstream to a posted boundary; on the Marais des Cygnes River on the upstream boundary of the Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area, downstream to the Kansas-Missouri border; and the Browning Oxbow of the Missouri River (Doniphan County). The KDWPT says the species dates back more than 300 million years and is similar to sharks in several ways.
Paddlefish anglers can use a pole and a line with no more than two single or treble hooks to try to snag paddlefish during the season. There are also several regulations depending on location. In Chetopa City Park, for instance, barbless hooks must be used. Catch and release is allowed in Burlington, Chetopa and Iola, but if a fish is attached to a stringer, it becomes part of the daily creel limit. The minimum length limit for fish snagged in the Missouri River is 24 inches long, and the minimum length for fish snagged on the Marais des Cygnes River is 34 inches.
Anglers also must carry Kansas fishing licenses, unless exempted by state law, and paddlefish permits. Permits cost $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for youths and include six carcass tags. They can be purchased in-person from a license vendor or by calling 1 (800) 918-2877. It’s also a good idea to call the KDWPT or area bait shops to make sure the conditions are right for spoonbilling before making any travel plans. Water temperatures in the mid-50s and a heavy current are needed to get the fish upstream out of reservoirs.
Paddlefish meat is a real treat, and their eggs also are often used as caviar. My favorite way that I’ve tried eating paddlefish is to make it into a nugget and bread it.
You can make a pretty easy fish breading by mixing 1 1/2 cups of corn meal, 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of lemon powder and 2 tablespoons of black pepper, or you can buy pre-mixed breading. For those who like things spicy, you can add a couple teaspoons of cayenne pepper. Dip the fish in either buttermilk or eggs, then roll the fish it in the coating or shake it together in a Ziploc bag.
You can then fry them in peanut oil in a pan or turkey fryer and cook until golden brown. The meal tastes great with some honey barbecue sauce or on its own.