Hatchery manager Bruce Drecktrah babysits baby paddlefish.
Q: What does a paddlefish babysitter do?
A: I work at Blind Pony Hatchery near Sweet Springs. Part of my job is gathering paddlefish eggs and helping them hatch.
Q: What’s a paddlefish?
A: Paddlefish have been around for about 300 million years. They don’t have teeth or bones. And they get really big — some weigh more than 100 pounds! But their most amazing feature is their long, paddle-shaped snout.
Q: How do you gather their eggs?
A: When females are ready to lay, we lift them out of the water and catch the eggs in a pan. Paddlefish are heavy, so another hatchery worker helps me lift them. Luckily, paddlefish have a built-in handle.
Q: What do you do with the eggs?
A: We add a few more ingredients and stir the mixture with a turkey feather. Paddlefish eggs are delicate. If we stirred with anything else, we’d scramble the eggs.
Q: How long does it take the eggs to hatch?
A: About a week. The baby paddlefish live in an aquarium for a few days, then we move them outside to ponds. When they’re big enough to fend for themselves, we turn them loose in Truman Lake, Table Rock Lake, and Lake of the Ozarks.
Q: Why not let paddlefish lay eggs in the wild?
A: Dam building and river dredging has destroyed many places where paddlefish lay eggs. Without hatcheries, paddlefish would disappear from many of Missouri’s waters.
Nichole LeClair Terrill