When it comes to fish found in Iowa, there are few as strange as the paddlefish! According to the Iowa DNR, paddlefish are one of the largest freshwater fish in North America and incredibly easy to recognize. Here's the description from their official website:

"Slate-gray to gray-blue above, fading to somewhat lighter beneath. They can easily be distinguished from all other Iowa fish by the immensely elongated snout, extremely long gill covers and shark-like mouth. The skeleton is largely cartilaginous. Jaws and palate of young fish are covered with numerous fine teeth, but the jaws become large, feeble and toothless as the fish reaches maturity. The body is naked, or scaleless."

Paddlefish have been around a very long time. In fact, the Iowa DNR says that, "fossil records show paddlefish have been around 300 million+ years - about 50 million years before the first dinosaurs!" The fish used to be much more common than it is now, but it can still be spotted in specific areas of Iowa.


Paddlefish in Iowa are typically found in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, but they have also been spotted in lower areas of other rivers, like the Cedar and the Iowa Rivers. The biggest one ever caught in the state was in the Missouri River in Monona County in March of 1981. Robert Pranschke caught one that weighed in at 107 pounds!

Speaking of catching paddlefish, the open season on the Mississippi River is March 1st through April 15th and the open season on the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers is February 1st through April 30th. Paddlefish are often caught by snagging, as they are considered "filter feeders." They are typically found in deep, slow water below a dam. You can check out all the 2023 fishing regulations from the Iowa DNR HERE.

For more information on paddlefish and where they can be found here in Iowa, check out the Iowa DNR's official website HERE.

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