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The Warsaw, Missouri area is known as the spoonbill capitol of the world - the main reason for this is large numbers of these fish are pulled from this area every year. My family and I have tried this "Snagging Bills" and all I have to say is this is an experience I recommend everyone check out.

These fish are easy to identify - they have an elongated snout, are cartilaginous (have no bones), long gill covers, shark like mouth (only no teeth), and the body has no scales. They feed primarily on zooplankton and insect larvae. The early growth rates of these fish is fast, often reaching 24 inches by the third year and are also known to live past 20 years. The real lure to the angler is the fact these fish can weigh in at 100+ pounds.

(A special thank you for help with this article goes to
Steady Eddie, Snag Master Al and Big Bro Brian)
Paddlefish, much like most fish, require specific conditions for reproduction to start. They begin their movement to flooded gravel bars when the water temps. Reaches 55-60 degree's F. The males begin to migrate first with the larger females following close behind. Most snagging seasons are during this period of time increasing your ability to land one of these primitive looking fish.
The Art of Snagging
Live bait and lures will not trigger a single bite from a spoonbill. About the only way to catch one is by dragging large treble hooks near the bottom and "snagging" the fish as it moves up river to spawn. There are two basic ways of "Snagging Bills" they are by trolling and casting.

Before discussing the ways of snagging, lets look at the equipment as this will help give you an idea of why this is such a unique way of fishing.

The typical snagging gear is a stiff 6 to 9 foot rod with a large salt water type level wind reel spooled with 100+ pound test braided line. Attached to the end of this line is 8 to 20 ounce sinkers to help keep your hooks at the bottom were the spoonbill spend the majority of their time. Above the weight there are typically two No. 8 to No. 14 treble hooks.
Trolling is by far the most popular way of snagging spoonbill. By using a boat with a depth finder, you can locate prime structure and concentrate your efforts on these locations. Large groups will often hold in deep water near spawning areas. When you arrive at a spot, simply lower the weight until you feel the bottom releasing additional line as the boat moves slowly forward. Now begin snagging! This is done by pulling the rod from a level position to a 10 o'clock position and back. Snagging is a lot like deer hunting - you never know when the big one will come past. Remember to feel the bottom each time you go back to the level position and use your legs and back to lesson arm fatigue. The real art here is being able to feel the fish and then pulling back enough to set the hooks in deep. It's also possible to simply troll for these fish by letting out enough line to maintain contact with the bottom. When you feel something - pull back hard!

The second way of snagging spoonbill is by casting from shore. The same type of equipment is used only most prefer longer rods with a lighter weight. Cast the weight out as far as you can near shore line structure. Then pull back to the 10 o'clock position, reeling in the additional line as you move your rod tip to the level position.

Tips for Snagging Bills
1) 100+ pound line doesn't break easily so use the handle from the gaff or paddle to wrap the line around to use as leverage. Try not to pull the line across any surface of the boat (edge ) as this could cut the line.

2) Leather gloves are a must! They offer protection for your hands and grip the line well.

3) Bring lots of weights and hooks. During an average snagging trip - you will loose a few of each.

4) Heavy duty needle nose pliers are helpful for releasing the hook from the fish and anything else you may happen to pull from the bottom.

5) Metal file for sharpening the hooks can increase your odds.

6) Length limits vary across the few states snagging is allowed, you will need to know the length limit size - also - paddlefish are measured from the eye to the fork in the tail.

7) Landing gaff - small under limit sized fish are easy to get off by hand. The larger keepers are best taken in with a gaff.

8) Nylon rope cut into 4 to 5 foot pieces, you will use these to tie the fish alongside your boat as most are to large for a live well.
Cleaning the Catch
Cleaning a spoonbill is not like cleaning most fish. First, start by hanging the fish up by its nose, put it at a height were you are eye to eye with the fish. Next cut in a circle though the meat above the tail down to the notochord. This is the cartilage backbone of the fish. Rotate the tail back and forth along this cut until you feel the notochord break and pull it free. This also allows the fish to bleed out.

Next gut and trim the fish much like a deer.
Then remove the head and cut in to steaks.
Cut out the center and remove the red or dark meat and skin and rinse
This fish is very firm and can be cooked a number of ways including grilling, deep frying, oven baking and are very tasty.

Enjoy the experience
Randy Man


Posted in: Fishing - General

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Friday, April 7, 2006 8:01 AM
Hey, This is Steady Eddie here, just read this article & I agree, everyone should try Snaggin Spoonbills, it is a blast, especially when you snag one & pull it in, you really get a workout !!!! Our family has a "Snaggin" contest going on & the one that catches the largest spoonbill for the season wins the traveling trophy, a stuffed toy spoonbill. The best part is spending time with family & friends & of course, sharing snaggin tales !!!!
Jim T.
# Jim T.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 12:57 PM
This may be a dumb question but how is the best way of tying the spoonbill to the side of your boat.

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