Discover the Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in Missouri

American Paddlefish swimming in a stream
Saran Jantraurai/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Updated: May 9, 2023

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When your entire eastern border is the Mississippi River you can imagine there is some fine fishing in your state! Missouri also has the namesake Missouri River, the longest river in the United States, as well as numerous lakes and streams. While catfish may be more prized and receive more publicity, the largest paddlefish ever caught in Missouri is actually larger than the largest catfish caught in Missouri! Read on to discover the largest paddlefish ever caught in Missouri.

What Is a Paddlefish?

The American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) is an interesting looking fish for sure. The first thing you notice is their long swordfish-like snout that protrudes from their face. In some paddlefish, the paddle accounts for a third of their length! Paddlefish are full-bodied fish that some consider shark-like due to their size and shape. If anything they are like the basking shark because they troll the water with their mouth wide open siphoning plankton for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also have nearly scaleless skin and a cartilage skeleton like sharks. Paddlefish live in the Mississippi River basin so Missouri is one of the key states where you will find these river monsters.

An American Paddlefish swimming

The paddlefish has a full body and a long swordfish-like nose protruding from its face.

How Large Is an Average Paddlefish?

Before we dive into the largest paddlefish ever caught in Missouri let’s look at what a “normal” paddlefish weighs. An average paddlefish weighs around 60 pounds and is 4.9 feet long. That is still a pretty massive fish when you think about it! Can you picture a 5-foot paddlefish lying on your 6-foot-long couch? The largest paddlefish ever caught in neighboring Iowa was 107 pounds, caught by Robert Pranschke on March 1, 1981, on the Missouri River. His record breaker measured 69.50 inches long (that’s 5.8 feet long!). The largest paddlefish in Missouri was larger than that!

How Large Was the Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in Missouri?

The largest paddlefish ever caught in Missouri was 140 pounds and 10 ounces! This just happened in the spring of 2022. Jim Dain was out fishing with his family on Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, about 145 miles southeast of Kansas City. It was March 18, 2022, and the weather forecast called for storms but it cleared and Dain stated the lucky “let’s try for just one more hour.” You have to understand when fishing for paddlefish you are not casting a line and waiting for a paddlefish to bite your bait. As we mentioned, paddlefish swim along with their mouths open ingesting all kinds of plankton and small crustaceans. To catch one, you use a technique called snagging, where you can jerk the pole to try to catch a passing fish or you can troll with an unbaited line in hopes of snagging an unsuspecting fish.

Paddlefish on white background

An average paddlefish weighs around 60 pounds while the largest paddle fish in Missouri was over 140 pounds.

How Did Jim Dain Catch the Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in Missouri?

Jim Dain snagged the largest paddlefish in Lake of the Ozarks and it took him 20 minutes to reel it in. He knew right away this was no ordinary catch. When he got it to shore another angler told him he needed to get that one officially weighed as it had to be a record breaker. Jim took the fish to Tom’s Slaughterhouse in Montreal where he could get it weighed on a certified scale. They hauled the fish up and it tipped the scales at 140 pounds and 10 ounces. His fish just barely broke the record with the previous record being 140 pounds 9 ounces. That is the difference in the weight of a piece of bread, but it counts!

What Do You Do With a 140-Pound Paddlefish?

According to an article by the Missouri Department of Conservation, there were 16 one-gallon bags of paddlefish meat that Jim Dain and his family got to enjoy. They quoted Dain saying he even made paddlefish tacos! Paddlefish meat is comparable to sturgeon. Paddlefish caviar is also sold in the U.S. and many enjoy it as a delicacy. It is also sometimes called “spoonbill roe” as spoonbills are another name for the American paddlefish.

Where Is Lake of the Ozarks Located on a Map?

The site of this record catch, Lake of the Ozarks, is in south-central Missouri in the Ozark Mountains. The man-made lake was made by impounding the Osage River in the northern part of the Ozarks. The serpentine shape of the lake has led to some calling it “the Missouri Dragon.” It covers four counties — Benton, Miller, Morgan, and Camden — and is around 42 miles southwest of Jefferson City.

What Is the Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in the World?

The largest paddlefish ever caught in the world was caught the year before, on June 22, 2021. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, a 164-pound paddlefish was caught by Grant Radar, of Wichita, Kansas, on his 18th birthday. He was fishing on Keystone Lake in Oklahoma when he nabbed this massive paddlefish. While this is the largest paddlefish on record it is not an official International Game Fish Association record as the IGFA does not have a category for paddlefish.

The American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

Paddlefish can get up to seven feet long, with their paddled snout about a third of their body’s length.

How Does the Paddlefish Record Compare to the Catfish Record?

The largest catfish ever caught in Missouri was a blue cat catfish that weighed 130 pounds! Compared to the largest paddlefish you can see it was 10 pounds lighter. The 130-pound blue catfish was caught by Greg Bernal of Florissant, MO on July 20, 2010. Bernal pulled his catch from the Missouri River on a late night fishing trip. At the time his record breaker also broke the world record for blue catfish.

Now the largest blue catfish ever caught in the world is a 143-pound blue cat caught just a year later on June 18, 2011, by Richard Nicholas Anderson. Anderson’s catfish was caught on Buggs Island, Virginia while he was fishing on Kerr Lake. The longest blue catfish was 122 cm (48 inches), which is 4 feet long! Compared to paddlefish that is nothing — paddlefish can get to be 7 feet long (of course that includes their long paddled snout)!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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