Conservationists helping paddlefish make comeback at Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake isn't just a jewel in the crown of natural wetlands around the world – it's also home to a unique fish t...

Posted: Jun 18, 2018 6:21 AM
Updated: Jun 18, 2018 6:21 AM

Caddo Lake isn't just a jewel in the crown of natural wetlands around the world – it's also home to a unique fish that first appeared millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

"The paddlefish is the continent's old living species, 350 million years old. It's been around for 50 million more years than the dinosaurs," said Laura-Ashley Overdyke, executive director of the Caddo Lake Institute.

The 27,000-acre lake – really a flooded bald cypress forest – has more kinds of fish than any other lake in the state of Texas. It's also home to more than 200 species of birds.

Paddlefish – also called spoonbill catfish or shovelnose catfish – are native to Big Cypress Bayou, which feeds the lake. They've also been found in Red River tributaries in Texas.

Now they're making a comeback in the Caddo Lake area with help from biologists.

Paddlefish almost died out when their internal clock stopped and they stopped spawning.

"That's because they needed a springtime pulse of water to tell them it's spring. It's time to spawn and have babies. When they lost that cue because of the dam at the Lake of the Pines that stopped the natural flow of water they didn't breed anymore," Overdyke said.

Now conservationists are releasing paddlefish in Caddo Lake to help the species thrive.

"That effort has gone so well that finally for this year, 2018, we have a fully funded restocking program approved. So in the fall about 14,000 paddlefish are going to be released," Overdyke said.

Scientists will track the fish.

"There's an acoustic transmitter inserted into the paddle fish so we can track them where they go and so we can make sure they are alive. We used to use radio transmitters and they lasted about four years and showed that all of our paddlefish stayed in the system so it was a success," Overdyke said. "But these new acoustic transmitters last eight to 10 years."

Overdyke said helping keep a species alive is a special experience. The fish are about a foot and a half long when released. They can grow to seven feet long and tip the scales at 200 pounds, but most average 10 to 15 pounds.

"Getting to release that paddlefish was one of the best days of my life, it was truly thrilling. The reason is this is an indicator species like a canary in a coal mine, and its success shows us that all of the hard work we have been doing in the Caddo system has been working," she said.

Article Comments

Mason City
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
Albert Lea
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 70°
Rochester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Today kicks off somewhat of an active pattern with low severe weather risks for the work week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

The ongoing need for blood donors

Image

Rochester Salvation Army store to close

StormTeam 3: Tracking Returning Rain

Image

KoMet volleyball sweeps Byron 3-0

Image

Latest Iowa AP football poll

Image

Dover-Eyota gets past St. Charles

Image

Talking about homelessness

Image

Getting to see the new electric bus

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 9/17

Image

Float therapy to reset your brain

Community Events