1. Are paddlefish related to catfish?  

No, paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) are related to sturgeon (Order Acipenseriformes). However, years ago commercial fishermen coined the name “spoonbill catfish” for paddlefish. Its similar grayish, scaleless skin and consumer willingness to pay more for catfish meat than other commercially-caught fish were the main reasons it was named a type of catfish

2. What and how do paddlefish eat?
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Paddlefish feed their entire life mainly on zooplankton (minute free-floating animals) found throughout the water column in rivers and lakes. Paddlefish are classified as filter feeders using their large mouth and modified gill rakers to collect zooplankton from large volumes of water.

3. Where do paddlefish live?

Paddlefish can live in rivers and lakes in a temperate climate. Paddlefish are native to 26 states of the United States AL, AR, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MI, MO, MT, NE, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV and WI. Paddlefish were introduced into the Soviet Union in the early 70’s, China in the late 80’s and were later introduced into some European and Eastern European countries.

4. What is the paddle used for?  

The paddle or rostrum is covered with specialized cells called “electroreceptors” that act like an antenna able to detect low frequency electrical fields (0.5-20 Hz) generated by zooplankton. The paddle allows the paddlefish to feed near the bottom of the food chain (i.e. zooplankton) in turbid conditions with little competition from other fish that feed primarily by sight. The paddle can also detect and help the fish avoid metal objects in the water. There is no scientific evidence that the paddle is used to dig in the mud for food to consume, as often thought by many due to its common names “spoonbill” .

5. Do paddlefish have bones?

Yes, paddlefish do have a few bones in the head region but primarily the skeleton of the paddlefish is cartilaginous. The paddlefish is guaranteed to be “boneless” when processed into steaks or fillets.

6. Do paddlefish have teeth?

Yes, paddlefish fry have a single row of teeth on the upper and lower jaws, from which its scientific name Polyodon comes meaning “many teeth”. However, as the fish grows, the teeth do not and eventually disappear.

7. Do paddlefish have scales?

Yes, paddlefish do have embedded rhombic-shaped ganoid scales around the opercular opening and sometimes around the area near the caudal (tail) fin. However, most of the paddlefish’s skin is scaleless.

8. Are paddlefish good to eat?

Yes, the meat is white with a mild favor and firm texture. Paddlefish meat lends itself well to a variety of seasonings and marinades and can be prepared by searing, broiling, grilling, smoking or frying. Also, female paddlefish produce black roe (eggs) that can be processed into some of the finest caviar in the world.  

9. Are paddlefish endangered or threatened?

No, paddlefish populations are stable or have increased throughout most of its native range in the United States due to stocking programs and strict fishing regulations 

10. Why is the paddlefish important?

The paddlefish is important because it is a high value fish, native to the United States, that could provide a new species for United States fish farmers and new products for consumers in the United States and around the world.