• Family: Polyodontidae (Paddlefish)
• Other Names: Spoonbill
• Ohio Status: Threatened
• Adult Size: Typically 2-4 feet, can reach over 5 feet. Usually weighs 5-20 pounds, can reach over 150 pounds. Largest recorded Ohio specimen was 5 feet long and weighed 184 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Paddlefish filter the zooplankton and small insect larvae from the water with their long gill rakers.
Paddlefish are a very unique fish with their long paddle-shaped snout. They have a large mouth with no teeth. They also have very small eyes and no scales. The skeleton is made completely of cartilage. There is no other North American fish species that resembles them.
Habitat and Habits
Paddlefish are found in the Ohio River and up to the first dam on its larger tributaries. They prefer the sluggish pools and backwater areas of these rivers and streams. Historically they were much more common and could be found as far up the Ohio River as Pennsylvania. It is also probable that there was a small population in Lake Erie at one time. Today paddlefish are most common it the Ohio River from Portsmouth downstream to the Indiana state line.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Paddlefish spawn in the spring during periods of high flow. The female scatters eggs over submerged gravel and cobble bars. The young hatch and drift down stream to deeper pools with slow water.