Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)


The paddlefish became Missouri’s official aquatic animal in 1997. Only three rivers in Missouri support substantial populations of the paddlefish: the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Osage. They are also present in some of the state’s larger lakes. The paddlefish has a primitive cartilage skeleton rather than bone. They commonly exceed five feet in length and a weight of 60 pounds. Left in their natural environment, they can live 30 years or more.

Paddlefish are easily identifiable by their long, paddle-shaped snout, called a rostrum (Latin for “beak”). They get the nickname “spoonbill” from this feature as well. Paddlefish can be fished in Missouri in-season. The state record for largest paddlefish was set in 2015; the fish caught by Andy Belobraydic, III weighed 140 pounds.


Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)

§10.130. Paddlefish state aquatic animal. – The paddlefish or spoonbill, scientifically designated as Polyodon spathula, is hereby selected for, and shall be known as, the official aquatic animal of the state of Missouri. (L. 1997 H.B. 700)

approved 23 May 1997
effective 28 August 1997


Photo Gallery:

Click on an image below to enlarge and read a caption. This will open a new window in the Missouri State Symbols Flickr album.

symbols/RG103_Digital_0027.jpg symbols/RG103_038_3714.jpg symbols/RG103_017_1649.jpg


Additional Resources:

Search historic issues of the Missouri Conservationist on the Missouri Digital Heritage website here.

The Missouri Department of Conservation State Documents Collection at the Missouri State Archives includes several publications on paddlefish. See the finding aid online.

The Missouri Department of Conservation Photograph Collection at the Archives is online through Missouri Digital Heritage and includes many photographs of paddlefish.

Mims, Steven D., and William L. Shelton, eds. Paddlefish Aquaculture. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.


Back to State Symbols Main Page