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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 7:03 PM
Updated: Jun 18, 2018 7:03 PM

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
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Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
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Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
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Leake285475
Marion284181
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Newton262364
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Attala226373
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Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
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