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How to Snag a Spoonbill

by Dan Harkins
The right equipment is imperative to catching a spoonbill catfish.

The right equipment is imperative to catching a spoonbill catfish.

Spoonbill catfish, also known as paddle fish, have evolved for as many as 300 million years in fresh waters throughout the world, sometimes growing to as large as 7-feet-long and 200 lbs. You won't have luck catching the long-snouted and fat-mouthed fish with bait; they're filter-feeding plankton eaters. You'll have to practice your snagging skills and catch them with some finesse.

Choose your location well. Spoonbill can be sighted by standard sonograph fishing equipment. Learn the impression a spoonbill leaves on your display. Monitor the fishing reports in your area to learn where spoonbill are being caught. Spillways for larger river systems are popular congregation spots, according to fishing researcher Dan Eggertsen, as well as outflow spots from dams and active rapids. While not required, an electronic fish finder takes the guesswork out of locating paddlefish.

Arrange your gear with no bait and a lead sinker up to 16-oz. on top of two treble hooks up to No. 10. Space the hooks about three to four feet apart.

Cast directly into the flowing water. Immediately reel your hook back in quickly. Keep repeating the process in the areas with the greatest water flow. Try a smaller size hook if numerous attempts with a hook verging on No. 10 comes back empty. Try a larger hook if the opposite is the case.

If you have a remote on your engine, you might be able to take your hooks to the rapids and troll them around. According to Eggertson, however, most spoonbill are caught without a boat from the shore.

Tug vigorously into the catch if you hook something to sink the hook, and then prepare to fight--especially if it's a spoonbill. Keep your hooks and sinkers well-knotted.

Retie your sinkers every 20 to 30 minutes so that you don't lose them. Develop good technique with practice. According to fishing guide Anthony Ford, in a "Rural Missouri" story about snagging spoonbill, a rhythmic motion with the casting is needed. As soon as the sinker hits bottom, the line should be reeled in continuously with a rocking motion to the rod.

Items you will need

  • Fiberglass reel, 8 to 12 feet
  • Saltwater reel with 40 to 80 lb. braided test
  • No. 6 to 10 treble hooks (2)
  • Lead sinker, 16-oz.

Tips

  • Install line counters on your reel to keep easy track of how much line you've got in the water.
  • Use gloves, a net and wire cutters to bring your spoonbill into the boat.

About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits