Live fish exhibit returns to State Fair

If you make it up to the Minnesota State Fair, don't miss the DNR's live fish exhibit.

Started in 1905, the State Fair's first live fish exhibit used aquariums purchased from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. This year's exhibit is expected to display about 45 species of fish.

One of the most popular fish with fairgoers has been the paddlefish. Characterized by their long, paddle-like bill, paddlefish are found in the lower Mississippi River below Minneapolis. Paddlefish grow to be quite large, with fish up to 200 pounds being recorded.

Paddlefish are like sharks, in that the skeleton (including the snout) is made entirely of cartilage rather than bone. Paddlefish are filter feeders without mechanical gills. They swim constantly to pass water over their rigid gill membranes, extracting oxygen and filtering out plankton that make up their diet. The paddlefish is a state-threatened species.

The largest fish in the exhibit is the lake sturgeon, which exceeds 50 inches. A State Fair veteran, this specimen on display was the gift of an angler who harvested it legally from the St. Croix River several years ago. Lake sturgeon in Minnesota are found in the Mississippi, St. Croix and Rainy river systems. The largest sturgeon reported in Minnesota was a 215-pound fish found dead along the shore of Lake of the Woods in the early part of the 20th century.

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