The Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in Tennessee Was as Big as a Deer

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: October 4, 2023
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These fish are ancient and live long lives (up to 60 years!). They reach such incredible sizes that they can outweigh the fishermen who catch them. That was exactly the case in The Volunteer State this year. Discover the largest paddlefish ever caught in Tennessee! Plus, learn about the largest paddlefish ever caught in the world.

Paddlefish Overview

Paddlefish (scientific name: Polyodon spathula) are ancient fish that lived alongside dinosaurs. These fish prefer freshwater environments where the waters are both deep and slow-moving. They can reach monstrous sizes, sometimes up to seven feet in length, and nearly 200 pounds! Their rostrum is shaped much like a paddle, which is their most distinctive feature. These fish have white bellies and dark-colored backs that may either be a bluish-gray color or even darker, appearing blackish. They live in different regions in the U.S., including the Mississippi River Basin extending from New York to Louisiana. They also live in Texas, Alabama, Ohio, and Michigan.

Paddlefish in the Aquarium of Toronto

Paddlefish have distinctive paddle-like rostrums.


The Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in Tennessee

The largest paddlefish ever caught in Tennessee weighed more than the man who reeled it in! Henry Dyer was fishing on the Cherokee Reservoir on April 13, 2023, when he caught the gigantic fish. Dyer didn’t just catch the largest paddlefish in Tennessee, but his fish is also the largest of any fish species that’s made it to a state record! The record for the largest catch was set in 1976 by a commercial fisherman who caught a 130-pound blue catfish on Fort Loudoun Lake. The previous record for the largest paddlefish was set in 2022, also at the Cherokee Reservoir. It weighed 120 pounds. Dyer’s paddlefish weighed a mind-boggling 149 pounds!

Dyer used a heavy rod that evening on April 13th and when he first snagged the paddlefish, he thought it was just a stump. Within seconds, the paddlefish started putting up a fight. Realizing what was happening, he held on for dear life! Luckily, he had help on the boat and between two people, they managed to get the fish on the boat on the third try. Dyer donated the paddlefish to Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency so they could learn more about this ancient fish.

The Largest Paddlefish Ever Caught in the World

Grant Radar of Wichita, Kansas has a story to tell for the rest of his life. It was his 18th birthday, and he was out on Keystone Lake in Oklahoma when he reeled in a paddlefish weighing a world record-setting 164 pounds!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Suivez_mon_regard/

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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