Paddlefish resemble sharks not only by shape, but by their skeletons as well. Both paddlefish and sharks have skeletons made of cartilage and not bone. Paddlefish have no teeth and eat by swimming through the water with its mouth held wide open, scooping up tiny plants and animals in the water called plankton.
Length: up to 87 inches (221 cm)
Weight: as much as 200 pounds; most are usually between 10-15 pounds
Gray, shark-like body with deeply forked tail
Long, flat blade-like snout (looks like a kitchen spatula)
almost one third of body’s entire length
Opens huge mouth when feeding
Skeleton made of cartilage
Has no scales
Gill cover is long and comes to a point
Diet: Plankton. Microscopic plant and animal life in water.
Scoops of huge mouth’s full of water and filters out food
with gill rakers.
Range: Mississippi River basin from New York state to Montana
and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Historically in Texas, paddlefish lived in the Red River’s tributaries, Sulphur
River, Big Cypress Bayou, Sabine River, Neches River,
Angelina River, Trinity River, and San Jacinto River.
Life Span: Known to live 30 years
Paddlefish like to live in slow moving water of large rivers or reservoirs,
usually in water deeper than four feet (130cm).
The underside of the paddlefish’s "paddle" is covered with taste buds (like the ones on your tongue) and probably helps it to find places where plankton is the most abundant.
Sexual Maturity: Male paddlefish are old enough to spawn
when they are four to nine years; females spawn when
they are 6-12 years old.
Spawning Season: March through June when spring rains raise the
water levels of river sand water temperatures reach 50-60 degrees. Males and females gather in schools and release their eggs over gravel or sandbars, this is called broadcast spawning. By the end of their first year, baby paddlefish grow about 10 to 12 inches.
Sometimes called a spoonbill, spoonbill cat, or shovelnose cat because some have mistaken the paddlefish as a member of the Catfish family.
One of only four cartilaginous fish native to Texas
chestnut lamprey, brook lamprey and shovlenose sturgeon are the others
First discovered in the 16th century by Hernando De Soto while exploring the
Oldest surviving animal species in North America
Older than dinosaurs (300 million years) and out survived them
Females may spawn only once every 4 to 7 years
The paddlefish has only one other relative in the world, another paddlefish that lives in China
and can grow to over 20 feet!
It’s Greek to Me
*Polyodon is Greek for "many teeth" and refers to the paddlefish’s gill rakers, even though they have no teeth at all
*The word spathula is Latin for "spatula" or "blade"
The State of Texas has protected the paddlefish since 1977. It is considered a threatened species. It is unlawful to catch, kill or harm paddlefish in Texas. Since 1989, Texas Parks and Wildlife has been stocking 8-10 inch paddlefish in East Texas rivers.
Paddlefish face a number of problems in Texas. They need large amounts of flowing water in order to reproduce. The construction of dams and reservoirs along Texas rivers decreases water flow and interrupts spawning.
The eggs of paddlefish can be used to make palatable caviar. When caviar becomes difficult, and expensive, to get from Russia paddlefish are often taken illegally (or poached) for their dark, edible eggs.
Paddlefish seldom bite a baited hook, but on occasion are "snagged" accidentally by anglers using treble hooks. Most often paddlefish are caught by using illegal nets, such as gill nets.