Location: Athens, Tennessee, USA

Paddlefish Mini-Expedition

Diving with paddlefish

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Big Fish Expeditions Paddlefish Adventure

Jump into history with the primitive paddlefish; an enormous yet rarely photographed freshwater fish related to sturgeon and listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. These elusive animals are the last remaining relics of an ancient lineage of cartilaginous fishes that split from the evolutionary tree more than 300 million years ago; 50 million years before dinosaurs first appeared.
Looking like a cross between a billfish and a basking shark, these strange cartilaginous fishes use their receptor filled rostrums to search for plankton in the lakes and river systems of the Southeastern US.

Once prolific throughout North America, paddlefish stocks have been heavily depleted by overfishing, harvesting them for their roe, and the damming of rivers.

Why Come with Big Fish Expeditions?

Although generally difficult to find and approach, we have been granted access  to Loch Low-Minn during the winter season when it is normally closed to divers. During the early spring, temperatures in the lake are relatively cold and the visibility is at its best. Because of the cool conditions, the paddlefish are far more sluggish than they would be in the summer and much more approachable.

BFE trip leader Jennifer Idol first visited these fish during her journey diving in all 50 states and has since returned several times to photograph their unusual shape with a long rostrum (snout like extension from their nose). She has learned the best time of year and approach for successful encounters.

Jennifer’s work on paddlefish has appeared in numerous publications, including Alert Diver, Scuba Diving and her book An American Immersion, in which she highlights this strange fish in Tennessee.


Scuba diving with freshwater American Paddlefish in Loch Low-Minn.



$1,495 per person double occupancy

Jennifer Idol

Paddlefish emerging from shore wall by Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Belly of paddlefish by Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol


Comfort Inn, Athens
Breakfast included

Level One / Open Water Diving Certification.
Some cold water scuba diving experience would be an asset.


  • 2 piece 7mm wetsuit or a drysuit for diving with the paddlefish.
  • Fins, mask, snorkel and a neoprene hood, booties, and gloves.
  • Warm clothing for exploring nearby waterfalls. Evening photography might be chilly.
  • Wide angle lenses


  • Two full days of diving with paddlefish – 3 tanks per day.
  • Tanks and weights.
  • Entrance fees to Loch Low-Minn.
  • Experienced paddlefish dive guide.
  • Group Van Transfer from the Nashville airport to Athens (Arrive by 5 p.m. March 6)
  • Three nights hotel accommodation with breakfast in Athens.


  • Personal diving equipment (all gear can be rented)
  • Lunch and dinner

Our Paddlefish Adventure starts with a group shuttle from Nashville Airport (BNA). Please be ready to board the shuttle at 5pm. On the last day of the trip, we will have you back at the airport by 12 noon.

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol


Day 1 Arrive at Nashville airport, where Jennifer will pick up the group for the transfer to Athens, TN. Time allowing for those who arrive, we will eat in Nashville and possibly see a couple sites. Check into the hotel and prepare for morning dives.
Days 2-3 Mornings: After breakfast, we will drive you to the lake for two dives with the paddlefish. After a thorough briefing from Jennifer, dive buddies will pair off to encounter paddlefish.

Afternoons: After warming up back at the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, we will return to Loch Low-Minn for an afternoon dive. Time permitting, you may also have a chance to explore the countryside before returning to Athens for supper.

Day 4 On our last morning of the trip, Jennifer will take the group back to Nashville for afternoon flights.
Abrams Falls by Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Overhead of paddlefish by Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

Loch Low-Minn Quarry by Jennifer Idol

Photo © Jennifer Idol

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Photos © Jennifer Idol

Mid water paddlefish by Jennifer Idol
Loch Low-Minn sculptures by Jennifer Idol
Loch Low-Minn entrance by Jennifer Idol

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Big Fish Expeditions Founder Andy Murch has spent the last two decades chasing big animals all over the world. Few people have Andy’s knowledge and organizational skills necessary to put together a professional expedition. Have a look through some of the comments from our guests: testimonials.

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