Weirdest Paddlefish Story EVER

Do you know what the Show-Me state's official aquatic animal is?

Wrong. It's the paddlefish. And some pretty weird stuff has gone down with Missouri's paddlefish this year, according to the Department of Conservation's press release issued Thursday.

This is a paddlefish. -
This is a paddlefish.
For starters, the state's Blind Poney Hatchery near Sweet Springs reported a freakishly huge crop of young paddlefish ready to be stocked in the Missouri lakes and streams, thanks to good weather and water temperature.

Normally when they raise these things, only about 15 to 20 percent survive the several months they must spend in special rearing ponds. This year, 40 percent survived, meaning over 260,000 paddlefish: record breaker!

So many survived, in fact, that they ran out of tags. Missouri is working on a project with the federal government and other states to track and study the paddlefish population in the Mississippi River basin. That project requires the Department of Conservation to tag every last paddlefish.

But this year, they came up 100,000 tags short. The folks at the hatchery searched nationally for more tags, to no avail.

Then things got "supernatural." U.S. fish and Wildlife Service Fish Biologist Joanne Grady came across dozens of old spools of coded wire tag. But she couldn't use these tags, because nobody could find records of which tag numbers had already been used (having multiple fish with the same tag numbers would screw up the whole project).

The one person who did know had died. He was Kim Graham, whom the press release called "a pioneering biologist." He had been a mentor to Grady at the fishery.

As Grady tells it, she was sitting at her desk late at night, "and I said aloud to myself and to Kim that I needed his help to solve the problem."

Sure enough, the next morning, a hand-written note was found in some files: Kim Graham had recorded how the old spools had been used and when. Victory!

Because paddlefish take about eight years to grow to keeper size, the influx won't affect this year's paddlefishing, which season starts Sunday.

About 88,000 paddlefish have been sent to the Lake of the Ozarks; 69,000 to the Missouri river; and 56,000 to Truman Lake. Table Rock Lake and the Black River also got them some.

Gonna get you some too?
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