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Paddlefish, Polyodon spathula

A close relative of the stugeon, only one species of paddlefish is native to waters of the Mississippi River in the United States. Another species is the largest freshwater fish in China, reaching lengths of up to 21 feet. The huge snout (paddle) of the paddlefish is covered with sensitive taste buds which may help locate plankton. A filter-feeder, the paddle fish can grow up to 200 pounds. Dams have caused a sharp decline in paddlefish distribution and abundance in the United States.

Snagging paddlefish with base hooks when the congregate below dams on their spring spawning runs is a popular in some areas of the country. Attempts at paddlefish farming have met with limited success. The flesh and eggs (caviar) of paddlefish are similar to sturgeon, of excellent quality, and highly desired and expensive market products.
Physical Description: 
�	Large, elongate, stout body
�	Ventral mouth
�	Long, flattened, paddle-like snout 
�	Rhomboid scales located at the base of the upper tail lobe
�	Large head
�	Small eyes
�	No teeth
�	Two barbels under the snout near the mouth
�	Blue-gray on the dorsal part of the body, silver-white on the lower side

Similar species: 
�	Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius)

Mean body size:
�	Adults are 1,100-1,600 mm total length

�	Warm rivers with long, deep, sluggish pools 
�	Found in areas with little current - below bars, lee of islands, backwaters, overflow lakes
�	Over winter in deep water

Distribution in VA:

�	Only occurs in the Clinch and Powell rivers of the Tennessee drainage   

Food Habits:  
�	Swim with their mouths open to strain water through their gill rakers to feed on plankton
�	Insects, plankton, bryozoans, sand, and detritus have been found in their stomachs
�	Juveniles have large teeth and eat microcrustaceans, insect larvae, and small fish

Reproductive Habits: 
�	Mature between 7 and 12 years old
�	Age at maturation varies with latitude  
�	Spawning occurs late March to late June in water that is 11-14�C
�	Clean gravel substrate is required
�	Females spawn at the surface
�	Multiple spawnings
�	Fecundity is 82,300-1,000,000 eggs per fish 

Population Status, Economic, or Ecological Importance: 
�	Special concern status nationally, threatened status in Virginia
�	Declined due to impoundment, channelization, siltation, pollution, and overfishing
�	Cultured and stocked in some states
�	Commercially harvested for caviar roe and smoked flesh
�	Sport fishermen hook them by snagging 
�	Protected status being considered


Jenkins, R.E and N.M. Burkhead. 1993. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.
If you are seeking more information for the above species click on the VAFWIS logo (The Virginia Fish and Wildlife Information Service):

Continue Browsing Families.....
  1. Petromyzontidae, Lampreys
  2. Polyodontidae, Paddlefish
  3. Acipenseridae, Sturgeons
  4. Lepisosteidae, Gars
  5. Amiidae, Bowfins
  6. Anguillidae, Freshwater Eels
  7. Amblyopsidae, Cavefishes
  8. Ictaluridae, Catfish
  9. Percopsidae, Trout-Perches
  10. Salmonidae, Trouts
  11. Clupeidae, Herrings
  12. Esocidae, Pikes
  13. Aphredoderidae, Pirate Perches
  14. Umbridae, Mudminnows
  15. Fundulidae, Killifishes
  16. Poeciliidae, Livebearers
  17. Cyprinidae, Minnows
  18. Catostomidae, Suckers
  19. Gasterosteidae, Sticklebacks
  20. Atherinidae, Silversides
  21. Cottidae, Sculpins
  22. Sciaenidae, Drums
  23. Percidae, Perches
  24. Moronidae, Striped Basses
  25. Centrarchidae, Sunfishes

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