Paddlefish, spoonfish, spoonbill cat, and Polyodon spathula are among several names given to this unique prehistoric fish. The paddlefish is the largest (over 200 pounds, six-feet long) freshwater fish in the United States and is found in 26 states that have large streams, rivers, and impoundments within the Mississippi River basin and adjacent Gulf Coastal drainages.
Paddlefish are highly valued for its black eggs (roe) processed into caviar and its boneless, firm, white meat. However, they are currently available only from the wild populations. Overexploitation and contamination by organochlorine pollutants (i.e. PCB) have required that many state agencies close down this valuable fishery. Commercial paddlefish farming is necessary to meet the market demand for its caviar and meat and alleviate harvest pressure from the wild paddlefish fishery.
Paddlefish have many outstanding characteristics for aquacultural development as a food fish in Kentucky and other states of the United States. Paddlefish filter feed on zooplankton throughout life, are long-lived (greater than 20 years), and grow rapidly (up to 10 pounds per year) reaching sizes up to 200 pounds.
They can be harvested by selective gill nets or by seining. Paddlefish can be propagated artificially and fingerlings raised intensively up to 14 inches in ponds, then grown for meat and roe intensively in ponds with catfish or extensively in reservoirs. Paddlefish meat is firm and boneless with a beef or pork-like texture, and it is also similar to sturgeon in taste and texture.
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