Marion County declares official county fish

The fish chosen can get up to about 200 pounds and 7 feet long.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 1:37 PM CDT
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MARION COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - They go back 125 million years, and they’re going back to Marion County. Paddlefish have become well known in the region because of restocking, so the Marion County Judge has declared them the county’s official fish.

Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur talked with Jefferson tourist Kathy Walker about some of the attractions in Jefferson, and, of course, the stocking of paddlefish at Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou came up.

But, they have done more than just stocking.

“A few years back the Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Parks and Wildlife, National Wildlife Refuge, and the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District all got together, and they put in a breeding ground that has been lost by the dam at Lake O’ the Pines,” LaFleur said.

They did this to ensure the thousands of paddlefish put back into Marion waterways would continue to breed. The Judge says paddlefish breed on a gravel bottom, and the dam has caused silting over any gravel.

“It takes the paddlefish seven or eight years to become breeding age, so this year is going to be the first they have bred on their own,” LaFleur said.

To celebrate this progress, and the presence of the fish themselves, the judge and Marion commissioners made a proclamation to name the paddlefish the official county fish.

“I think that is wonderful. To tell you the truth, I was not aware of the fact that there were paddlefish in this area,” Walker said. She lives in Turkey and just happens to know a thing or two about paddlefish since her brother “worked with the paddlefish breeding down in Kerrville,” Walker said.

She feels her brother needs to know about the official fish. “We’re going to go email him immediately,” Walker said.

As far as other counties having an official fish, well, LaFleur said without researching, he wasn’t sure.

By the way, it’s illegal to catch paddlefish. They are protected. The paddlefish on the wall behind the judge is a wooden replica, appropriately carved out of, you guessed it, cypress wood. But, the proclamation may be setting an o-fish-al trend here. Could be a big splash.

Judge LaFleur will submit the proclamation to the governor’s office, although he’s not sure what the response will be. By the way, paddlefish can grow to 200 pounds and about 7 feet long, feeding only on tiny animals called zooplankton, which the fish strain from the water.

KLTV's Jamey Boyum talks with Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur about a declaration proclaiming the paddlefish as the official Marion County Fish.