Paddlefish
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank; there is a lamprey wound visible at the lower right.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Top view of snout: Notice the paddle-like snout.
  • Head-on view of snout: Notice the paddle-like snout.
  • Close-up of head area: Notice that the gill cover is pointed and that the skin is leathery.
  • Close-up head: Notice the spiracle.
  • Close-up of open mouth: Notice the large size of the mouth.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: The paddle snout of juveniles is proportionally larger than that of adults.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: The paddle snout of juveniles is proportionally larger than that of adults.
  • Close-up of flank: Notice the attached silver lamprey and serveral fresh wounds on the belly
  • Alternative side view of an adult.
  • Alternative side view of an adult.
  • Close-up snout: Notice the visible sensory pores.
  • Top view of snout: Notice the visible sensory pores.
  • Close-up of gill rakers: Notice the numerous long and fine gill rakers.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Paddlefishes (Polyodontidae)
Body
Mouth and Snout: Prominent paddle-like snout (called a rostrum), about one third the length of the body, covered with sensory pores. Large subterminal mouth, no teeth. No obvious barbels (two tiny barbels on underside of snout just forward of mouth but difficult to see. The eye is relatively small. Different views: side tip, from above The gill rakers are extremely long, thin and numerous. Views of gill rakers (looking down the mouth), gill flap (opercular flap), and gill rakers as seen looking through the opercular opening. Body Pattern: Solid dark to light or possibly silver-gray on back and flanks with white undersides. Darker gray blotches on the rostrum and head are sensory pores. No scales. Leathery skin. Body Shape: Plump, robust body that is basically fusiform only fatter. The body is rounded in cross section, with a large belly. Typical adult size is 1500-1800 mm, including the rostrum; with a maximum of 2200 mm (7 feet).
Fins
Heterocercal tail, strongly forked. Single fleshy dorsal with no spines, located on the posterior portion of the back. Pelvic fins abdominal. No adipose fins. The fins have rays but are somewhat fleshy.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The long paddle-shaped snout is rather distinctive. Additional characteristics are the heterocercal tail, large subterminal mouth, no obvious barbels, long pointed fleshy gill covers, spiracle, smooth gray leathery skin, and forked tail with top lobe longer than bottom lobe. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Same.
Juveniles
Juveniles are not as fat, and the paddle is proportionally longer.
Hybrids
None known from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Snout
Catfish, BlueNo paddle-like snout
Catfish, ChannelNo paddle-like snout
Catfish, FlatheadNo paddle-like snout
PaddlefishLarge and paddle-like
Barbels
Catfish, BlueObvious barbels
Catfish, ChannelObvious barbels
Catfish, FlatheadObvious barbels
PaddlefishNo obvious barbels
Gill Covers
Catfish, BlueNot long, pointed
Catfish, ChannelNot long, pointed
Catfish, FlatheadNot long, pointed
PaddlefishFleshy
Tail Shape
Catfish, BlueRounded or forked with two equal lobes
Catfish, ChannelRounded or forked with two equal lobes
Catfish, FlatheadRounded or forked with two equal lobes
PaddlefishForked with top lobe longer than bottom lobe
Similarity Index
Catfish, BlueSlightly similar
Catfish, ChannelSlightly similar
Catfish, FlatheadSlightly similar
PaddlefishN/A
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