Is That a Shark Swimming in the Mississippi River?


One of the biggest freshwater fish in the world, the paddlefish, calls the Mississippi River its home. The size of this fish has resulted in shocking accounts of sightings. Paddlefish can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh up to a massive 60 pounds. One paddlefish can weigh as much as some of the biggest dogs in the world.

It also has a long snout to dig vegetation about of the bottom of lakes and rivers and they also feed by filtering zooplankton out of the water. As vegetarians, the paddlefish is harmless to humans and other swimming creatures that it shares the rivers with.

Although they have similar physical characteristics to a shark, the paddlefish is not closely related to the shark. It is possible that they evolved from a similar species but at this point in time are so different that they are studied in completely different categories. Belonging to freshwater rivers is a large separating quality between paddlefish and sharks. It’s actually more related to a sturgeon fish.

The paddlefish is most commonly found in the Mississippi river but it also found throughout the mid-west with breeding habitats in free flowing lakes with reservoirs throughout the Missouri lake system in North Dakota and the Great Lakes.

Fishing for paddlefish is illegal in most areas due to its vulnerable status on the endangered species chart. Some states allow recreational fishing for paddlefish and poachers target these areas. They can be difficult to catch because they don’t accept bait or lures due to their method of feeding on the bottom of the lakes and rivers.

Paddlefish are actually targeted more for their eggs than their meat or skin.

Their harvested eggs are commercially sold as caviar because they, and sturgeon, are the most important fish for freshwater caviar. Their eggs are very valuable and oddly they often receive more mention for their little eggs than their incredible size.

Featured pic by The Conservation Institute

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