American Paddlefish Being Saved From Extinction at Caddo Lake

The American Paddlefish is now the only remaining species out of six previously existing paddlefish species, and it is being successfully restocked into Caddo Lake. The Paddlefish is North America’s oldest living species, said to be 50 million years older than the dinosaurs.

While news of the extinction of another species is always sad, there is a positive side to the story here in Texas and Louisiana. It was recently announced that the Chinese Paddlefish is now extinct.

Though the American Paddlefish are alive and well in many U.S. rivers, they had disappeared from Caddo Lake/Big Cypress Bayou (on the border of Louisiana and Texas, but now historic agreements with the Corps of Engineers and a broad coalition of supporters are restocking them.  

In 2005, the Caddo Lake Institute, with many key nonprofit and government partners, began working on a flows regime that would help restore habitat and fisheries in Big Cypress Bayou/Caddo Lake. The Paddlefish, considered a key native species, had disappeared from Caddo because of a loss of springtime pulses indicating it was time to spawn, and lack of rocky bottoms on which to lay their eggs.  The flows project fixed those issues, providing springtime pulses and sediment scouring.  The Corps of Engineers placed gravel spawning shoals in Big Cypress Bayou which remain clear of sediment. 

Experimental releases of paddlefish began in 2014, were successful, and in 2018 the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, embarked on a 10 year full-scale restocking of Paddlefish back into Caddo Lake. This will continue until a viable population can be established. 

These fish that are older than the dinosaurs are filter feeders, have no scales and essentially no bones.  They are listed as threatened in the state of Texas and are not game fish. Game fish restocking occurs regularly in Caddo, but now the Paddlefish are also being restocked, good news for the saving of a species.

For more information on this project, contact Caddo Lake Institute at (318) 541-6923 or visit their website at www.caddolakeinstitute.org.

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