Giant spoonbill found in Lake Jacomo

As originally seen on

For one angler fishing in the weekly Lake Jacomo Bass Tournament, there was quite a surprise waiting when he headed off to his first spot.

Stephen Delgado left the main marina and headed to the northwest part of the lake to fish near some weed lines when he noticed a large fish floating in the water. As he approached, his first thought was that it was likely a giant catfish.

Delgado, as he maneuvers his boat for a closer look. Photo courtesy of Stephen Delgado.

“I remembered the state record channel cat was caught out of Jacomo, and caught a few channels here and there, but nothing huge”, Delgado remarked.

The big white belly came into view and he noticed fins that didn’t seem quite right for a catfish. When he pulled the boat up beside it, he was astonished to discover it wasn’t a catfish at all, but instead a massive spoonbill!

Lake Jacomo

Photo courtesy of Stephen Delgado.

It hadn’t been dead long because it wasn’t swollen and hadn’t started to rot. With no good way to measure it, he pulled the fish close to the boat and rested his 7 foot, 4 inch bass rod next to it for reference. It was almost the entire length of the fishing pole!

Photo courtesy of Stephen Delgado.

“The bill alone was probably close to 30-inches”, he said.

Not knowing there were spoonbill in the lake, Delgado decided to do some good old fashioned google searching and stumbled upon a story from the Independence Examiner decades ago. The article told the tale of a lucky angler who snagged a 100-pound plus spoonbill while bluegill fishing at Jacomo.

When asked about how the spoonbill got in the Lake Jacomo, local fisheries biologist, Jake Allman, indicated it was highly unlikely someone released it from another location like the Missouri River. He dug up some old records to see for himself.

“Twenty paddlefish were stocked in 1974 from fish reared below Jacomo in some hatchery ponds the county operated”, Allman stated. “Only one was stocked in 1975, and the MDC has never stocked them in Jacomo.”


Lake Jacomo

Photo courtesy of Stephen Delgado.

With a total of only 21 verified stocked paddlefish in the mid-1970s, the odds seem almost insurmountable that one could have made it this long with all the different factors affecting survivability. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says spoonbill, or paddlefish, can live up to 55 years with most fish having an average lifespan of 20-30 years. They can grow to over seven feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds.

Multiple witnesses, including one of Delgado’s friends, later returned with a scale and tried to hoist the fish out of the water. It was so heavy he couldn’t do it, but the scale was reading 90 pounds with the tail still in the water.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Delgado.

“To come across a fish like that and learn how few were stocked is truly a once-in-a-lifetime encounter”, Delgado commented. “The odds of it living that long and growing to that size seem astronomical. That fish could literally be the oldest fish in the lake.”

“That’s why I love fishing so much. You just never know what you’ll come across on the water”, he concluded.



Published in print (6/17/18) and online at the KC Star: