The Paddlefish is a large, primitive fish related to sturgeon. It is characterized by a long, spatulate snout, many fine gill rakers, and a virtually scaleless body. Like sturgeon, its backbone extends into the upper lobe of its tail. There are two species worldwide, one in the Mississippi River drainage; the other in the Yangtze River drainage in China. The native range of paddlefish in New York is the Allegheny River watershed and its presence is supported by only a few early accounts. It was extirpated from New York but was recently reintroduced and a population is establishing itself once again. It is rare.
artwork by Howard Friedman
Paddlefish disappeared from the Allegheny watershed in New York before 1900 because of dams and downstream pollution in Pennsylvania. It lived in backwaters of the low gradient rivers and large lakes like Chautauqua Lake. It spawned in riffle areas at times of high flow. Paddlefish has been stocked into historic locations in the Allegheny watershed as part of a restoration program that began in 1998. Survival of stocked fish appears good, but no spawning has yet been documented.