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The Rare Spoonbill Catfish ~~ March 06, 2008 7:45 PM

The Rare Spoonbill Catfish ~~ 7:43 PM

spoonbill catfishSpoonbill Catfish (Polyodon spathula)
The spoonbill catfish, also known as the paddle fish, is one of most
ancient fish around. They are also one of the oddest looking fish
species. Spoonbill catfish are not actually catfish at all as the name
implies. Spoonbill Catfish were once endangered but are making a
comeback. Spoonbill catfish or paddlefish may have been around for at
least 300 million years. Adult spoonbill catfish grow to seven feet
long and can weigh as 200 pounds.

Spoonbill catfish are plankton eaters, they filter zooplankton
(microscopic animal life) from fresh waters. To do this Spoonbill
catfish swim with their mouths open. Some states allow the harvest of
Spoonbill catfish and others don't!  [ send green star] flag for delete

Group History
 7:44 PM

Key Notes and Tips:

     *Spoonbill Catfish are Plankton feeders.

     *Snagging (foul hooking) Spoonbill catfish is how most recreational fisherman catch Spoonbill catfish.

     *Spoonbill catfish get very large. Up to 200 pounds.

     *Spoonbill catfish are not actually catfish.

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 March 06, 2008 7:47 PM

Picture of a Spoonbill Catfish spoonbill

Picture of a Spoonbill Catfish Caught by Don in Oklahoma which weighed in at 50 pounds! This fish is one of 7 caught that day by snagging. Snagging spoonbills is legal in Oklahoma. Check you local regulations to see if spoonbill are legal in your area. Spoonbill are Plankton feeders.

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 March 06, 2008 7:53 PM

Nature Bulletin No 213-A   January 15, 1966
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation


One of the largest, strangest and most primitive of all the freshwater 
fishes in this country is the Paddlefish, or Spoonbill Catfish, found 
only, with a few exceptions, in the Mississippi valley. It is not a 
catfish, although it has a smooth skin with no scales except a few on 
the tail. It has a skeleton of cartilage or gristle -- no bones except a 
network of thin splints over the head and snout -- and in other ways is 
more like a sturgeon than any of our American fishes but lacks the 
bony plates or bucklers (two rows on each side and one row on the 
back) that characterize the sturgeon. Its only close relative is found in 
the large rivers of China, and the two form a link between the sharks 
and our modern bony fishes.

In the Mississippi River and its larger tributaries, the paddlefish 
commonly reaches a length of 4 or 5 feet, with a weight from 30 to 50 
pounds, and specimens weighing 150 pounds have been caught. It is 
peculiar for its long tapering bill which widens at the end like a canoe 
paddle and makes up a third or more of its total length. The body is 
chunky, with large fins and forked tail. The mouth is immense and 
shark-like, although it has no teeth when adult, and the very large gills 
have an elaborate straining apparatus for separating out the food that 
is drawn in with enormous quantities of water. No one knows what the 
peculiar snout is for, unless it is a sort of "short-range radar" for 
detecting the soft-bodied aquatic insect larvae and the tiny animal and 
plant life upon which the paddlefish chiefly feeds. As it swims slowly 
along, usually near the bottom, the huge mouth hangs open and the 
head and paddle swing alternately right and left in a wide arc. When a 
wad of food has collected on the thousands of long slender filaments 
attached to the gills, he gulps it down.

Because of its peculiar feeding habits, the paddlefish is rarely taken on 
hook-and-line. In some states, like Missouri, where "gigging" or 
spearing fish is permitted in certain streams, many are so taken in the 
shallower waters. In this method, one man usually sits in the stern of a 
boat, paddling slowly while another man stands poised at the bow, 
scanning the depths of the water and ready to hurl the gig. The gig 
consists of a three-pronged or single-pronged spear on the end of a 
long slender pole, each prong being sharp and barbed.

Most paddlefish, however, are caught in seines or nets operated by 
commercial fishermen. In 1942, in four large reservoirs of the 
Tennessee Valley Authority, in Alabama, more than 700,000 pounds 
of spoonbills were caught. The flesh is white, firm, and has a delicate 
flavor resembling some of the larger catfish. It is sometimes smoked 
like sturgeon. In some markets, the smaller fish are sold without the 
head, fins or tail as "boneless catfish". The paddlefish is highly prized, 
however, for its eggs or roe. These, pickled in brine, are sold at high 
prices as caviar.

The spoonbill was first described in 1673 by Father Marquette, who 
had never seen or heard of anything like it. For a hundred years or 
more, men have sought for its newly-hatched young but they have only 
been found twice: in May, 1932, and May, 1944, on large sandbars in 
the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio. Perhaps they were 
overlooked because they look like young sturgeon; having no bill-- just 
a blunt rounded snout.

Among other fishes, the Spoonbills are considered very snooty.

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