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Fish Identification - Bowfin

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Species Facts

Science Name: Amia calva
Other Names: mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, grindle, blackfish, cottonfish, swamp bass, cypress trout
World Record: 21 lbs. 8 ounces SC
Environment: lakes
Techniques: light tackle
Range: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana

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drew | Posted: July 4, 2013

my grandfather lives on little crooked lake and they are alot of big bowfin. it is very shallow and weedy. i caught them ight off the dock before. they are fun to fish for and fight like crazy.

Pammiepi | Posted: June 14, 2012

I occasionally catch these guys in a large fishing pond off of Black Creek (FL). I actually like catching them, since they are good fighters and can get fairly large. Caught one just this morning on a plastic lure (weedless frog) I was just half-heartedly tossing out to see if any bass would strike. When it hit the lure, I thought it was a bass. BTW, many may say to kill this fish, but it's actually a native fish so should be left alone. Even though they purportedly aren't tasty to eat, they are good fighters and fun to catch, just watch those teeth! You can catch these guys with lures or even bait meant for catfish.

dlb4bass | Posted: November 25, 2011

i landed a bowfin near savannah tn. on the tn river. 58 degree water temp. football head jig. first time ive ever seen one.

Kaleb | Posted: June 4, 2011

Man, I was fishing for bass last night and I got one of these. It weighed 10 pounds! is that a good size for a bowfin?

nick | Posted: December 26, 2010

people who catch these fish should use boga grippers or grab them by the gills. whoever mistakes these fish for a snakehead is a dumb ass.

nick | Posted: December 26, 2010

hey dlgallag, next time someone says to kill a bowfin call them retarded, just because a bowfin is a predator fish doesn't mean it should be killed, bass and pike are predator fish should we kill them to. Bowfin don't have very big mouths like bass or pike so they can't eat bass bigger than a pound. bass eat bowfin and i even saw a youtube video of a five to seven pound bass eat a baby alligator so bass are more of a predator than a bowfin would ever be and bass get bigger than bowfin.

dlgallag | Posted: September 7, 2010

I was fishing Pymatuning Lake (Pennsylvania Side) on Sunday, 9/5/2010 for Walleye and Perch using a large fathead minnow (off the bottom). I landed and released a 24" bowfin. Like many of the posters, I had no idea what I had caught until a couple of nearby fishermen identified it. It hit that minnow very hard and put up a very good fight. From what everyone said, they had not ever seen one caught out of Pymatuning. Apparently they are getting caught fairly often in Lake Erie and Conneaut Lake. Fishermen told me later that this is a predator fish and I should have killed it. I don't kill what I don't eat, so this statement kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Any comments from anyone??????? Should we be taking these out of our lakes when we catch them?

Jim Nixon | Posted: May 24, 2010

I was fishing at a low spot in a creek/pond just off of the Cumberland River. I kept seeing these weird looking tings swim thru the water, rippling just above the surface. I had a catfish rig set, and was spinning for Bass. then the catfish pole went nuts, and I hooked him, thought I had a nice cat. I pulled up this just weird looking thing, that resembled a Alligator Gar without the snout. Had to look it up on the internet to find what it was. It was an ok fight, but nothing dramatic.

Cari | Posted: August 16, 2009

Caught one in Lac. St. Louis near Montreal Quebec!! Far north :)

jwell22 | Posted: August 12, 2009

If you want to land 5lbs+ it's best to use a high test line or wire leader. These things can bite off 10lb test like it's kite string!!

lunkerlana | Posted: July 23, 2009

I just caught one of these tonight with a big hook and a nightcrawler in the SHiawassee River in Michigan. I had never seen one before. My husband hooked one also just before I did but it broke his line before he could land it. That just goes to show that it takes a woman to get the job done right!

reel fisherman | Posted: March 25, 2009

You can catch biggins with hot dogs I cought a 18 pounder with a hot dog!!!!!

Wizzle | Posted: February 23, 2009

These badboys eat everything. We've caught them fishing for bass with crankbaits and even targeting them with live finger mullet at lake Mattamuskeet, NC. We've also caught them on rubber worms and spinner baits.

sillygirl | Posted: August 18, 2008

I caught one today with a night crawler. After about 15 minutes of being dragged in my kayak though the lilly pads it finally gave up and I pulled it in. Wow!!! It was 36" long!!! I used the pliars and got my hook out and set it free. I did have to yell for help from my husband. I almost fell in with it!!! :p

tswift2000@hotma | Posted: July 11, 2008

Discovered them after they tore into a stringer of crappie. Lost 3 hooks in 3 minutes using my light tackle. Came back to the swamp-like creek the next day with twine and a large hook and set it out with cut-up crappie(I know, a sin) and had non-stop action. I should have brought gloves though. Worthless as food, but was fun to dissect the three ~6 pounders I was able to land.

Richie | Posted: August 13, 2007

i used a sea shad with a jig head in a canal leading from a lake, i just diped the lure in, i didnt cast it out i just dipped it and i had a bite right off the bat.

Triple R | Posted: April 28, 2007

I was fishing for bass in the small pond next to my house in Land O Lakes, Fl. using a 10inch Culprit tequila sunrise worm Texas rigged. Made a nice cast just outside the weed line along the shore. First twitch of the rod generated a monster hit. 5lbs+ easy...fought like 10 lb. large mouth. I had no idea what it was until I found this site....great fish, great fight. Released alive and well. Watch out for the chompers, these guys have nasty teeth and they know how to use em....Good luck!

d howard | Posted: April 4, 2007

While fishing in lake waccamaw in north carolina, we were looking for a good fight and decided to catch some bowfin. We used bright yellow worms and slowly dragged them accross the bottom of the river that feeds the lake. This technique was very effective we caught around seven bowfin in about an hour

codygeorge | Posted: January 2, 2007

me my dad and my dads best friend were fishing in a little pond just off the tennese river and the other day my dad caught some cat fish with live bait so we came out and threw in some shiners. at the end my dads friend was realing his in and the bowfin bit it we didnt know what it was my dads friend went to get the hook out and the bowfin hissed and almost took off his finger he almost crapped himself. shiners work best

Danny Dorton | Posted: August 19, 2006

Were from Pennsylvania and were catching 10 pounders off of shiners and cut up panfish and they just tearing them up! Great fish to put up a fight with , fun for the kids!

stc | Posted: June 20, 2006

We have landed 3 or 4 of these bowfin up here on the Wis River north of Rhinelander Wis in the last couple of years and see them spawn in early summer. Good fight. All caught on nightcrawlers.

rangerique | Posted: June 18, 2006

We were fishing up at Island Lake NE of Fargo, when we caught the bowfin, or, as we call them DOGFISH. Netted it after five minutes of fighting and wasn`t sure what we had. Kinda scary looking fish. Unhooked it carefully and sent it on it`s way. Two years ago we cauaght 7 of them, nice size, determined fighter. Ya, I look fiorward to hooking `em again

Jerry | Posted: April 10, 2006

I was taking my sons fishing and decided to try out a new spot, and we hooked 7 bowfin within about an hour, right around dusk. we were using nightcrawlers, and they were gobbling them up. we are now fishing for these almost exclusively in this hole, as we like the fight and the boys love to catch fish that have some size to them. I have yet to notice a smell like mentioned in the other postings, but agree with the slime issue. we plan on trying to cook some up maybe this weekend, as i have heard conflicting reports...

sullyzippo | Posted: April 5, 2006

watermelon seed or june bug seven inch trick worms have put me on a ton of mudfish. Here in S.C. we also catch them on nightcrawlers on the bottom in the Edisto river.

[email protected] | Posted: March 1, 2006

Around this area we call the bowfin a dogfish. From what i have seen, the fish is thriving. We catch between five and 10 every time out fishing in the illinois river and the creeks and backwaters off the river. As far as eating them, I've not tryed them yet but do plan to try this summer.

matthew | Posted: September 13, 2005

when fishing with worms cast into holes in the mittle of weed beds

David Cap | Posted: September 1, 2005

Down here in georgia rivers a rubber worm is excellent choice for catching huge muds. Just fish it like you would for a largemouth bass and your sure to get one.

Bob D | Posted: August 31, 2005

The idiots in NC throw these fish on the bank or just kill them. Nobody except the mexicians will eat them. My Son and I catch them all the time and release them healthy, Everytime. They are great fun to catch. They put up a great fight, pull hard and can usually be caught on anything that Bass will hit. I think it's a shame that the un-educated people that catch them around here are destroying them instead of releasing them back to the water for others to catch. I truely hope that it is not true what the other reveiwer wrote that they are becoming extinct. They are great fish to catch. Fun BIG fish for a child to catch and from what I have read, not bad to eat. Please post response!!

burrent45 | Posted: August 14, 2005

Yeah, I caught this fish the same way many others do; by accident. I was using a live minnow on the bottom of the Tar River, NC and had a probably a 7 or 8 pound blackfish on the line. At first I thought it was a bass by the head and was about to lip it and then saw the snake-like tail and did not know what the hell to do. Glad I did not lip it!!

megng | Posted: June 12, 2005

the range is two limited I caught one in lake onatario. They do give a good fight though, it took me nearly 15 minutes to bring a ten pounder in. (I was using 4 pound line.)Watch out, when I put my hand in its mouth to hold it up for a picture it took a nice chunk out of my finger. also caught a five pound one later that day.

007slim | Posted: May 3, 2005

i just caught a 15 inch bowfin in a canal beside my house in naples fl, i was trying my new spider bait caster with a top water lure when this fish inhailed my lure, i didnt have a clue what it was untll now, it put up a nice fight.

WIfisherman | Posted: August 17, 2004

The range is too limited. I've seen dogfish caught on the Wisonsin River near the Miss. River in Wisconsin. Most of them I've seen weighed 4-6lb range.

brian golgman | Posted: June 24, 2004

I caught one on a Bomber long A, FLOATER, blue and orange with rattles. Location: Econ. river, oveido/orlando florida.

Gen Fire | Posted: May 16, 2004

I have just cought my first BowFin, It was 27in 5.8oz. I always wantted to see this fish I heard it was going on the endangered speices list cuz of the population is go away! I was happy to let it go. But it was fun while it lasted.

aerofox1 | Posted: April 3, 2004

Was catfishing today in a small river in eastern NC. Something hit my pole. Thought I had a big catfish. What a fight. Reeled it in and hadn't a clue what I caught. It stunk!! and was very slimy. Never seen a fish like that before. Caught another one a little while later. Found out later what they were.

matt jl | Posted: November 1, 2003

alot of folks in my area eat what is known locally as choupic. I fish for them often alot of fun.

julie bentle | Posted: August 11, 2003

Didn't notice the smell...But man was it slimy as all hell! Had no idea what I caught. I thought I had discovered a new species of fish! It was heavy and definitely put up a good fight. I thought it was 20lbs until my brother told me I was crazy. Caught fish in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on Lake Pokegema around 7:30 p.m. on a jitter bug in shallow waters.

Bob Young | Posted: June 29, 2003

Caught one today in Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario. About 22" long and 4 to 4.5 lbs. Used a gold U20 Flatfish "wind trolled" (fished very slowly) over a weed bed. Put up a heckuva scrap...jumped 2 or 3 times. Didn't notice any bad smell. Belly tinted a very bright green with black spot on tail. First one ever for me.

garman | Posted: November 5, 2002

There's now an organization for all of us oddball bowfin anglers. The Bowfin Anglers' Group is found at

Bowfin and Gar!---America's Toughest Gamefish for Over 100,000,000 Years!

Zed again | Posted: August 11, 2002

Oh yea--like BASNBUD says, they have teeth. Little ones, but they cut a sluggo in half clean as a Walmart-special filet knife.

Zed McG. | Posted: August 11, 2002

My buddy just caught a bowfin; we did not know what the heck it was. Came to the I'net to check it out. This one was at least 24" and 5lbs.

I'm in a suburb of St. Paul, MN. We were fishing for bass, working a muck line with Sluggos. It was fun, I gotta admit. We thought he had a trophy largemouth!

basnbud | Posted: August 6, 2002

As you can tell by my handle, I bass fish, but I catch these things on anything a bass will hit. from a jig to a topwater bait. One thing that is a misconception is they do inhabit rivers also. Matter of fact, I catch more out of rivers than lakes. They do pull good, but whatever you do, don't lip one.

E Tubbs | Posted: August 2, 2002

I've caught a few in Ohio. Muskingum River above Zanesville in a creek and a small cove, using nightcrawlers. This last time I was bottom fishing for shovelhead cats with a hotdog, guess what I got on my line instead. about 8 lbs and fought like hell. I don't like the smell nor the teeth but they are different.

[email protected] | Posted: July 15, 2002

My freind caught a bowfin or dogfish, grinnel grindle what ever you want to call them with a blue artificial worm, fishing it very very slowly bottom to middle depth. You need at least a 8 pound test line to catch one as because they are big and put up a good fight. Be careful because they will bite.

[email protected] | Posted: June 30, 2002

I've found that in the spring you can catch dogfish after dogfish on bluegill. This fish fights like hell and is good for two things: hitting over the head with a blunt object and garden fertilizer. Email me if you have any comments or questions at [email protected]

Aaron Haller | Posted: June 20, 2002

Come on you guys this fish rules! I cought two in 1 night what an awesome time I had, 1 must have been 32inchs 7 lbs! and in the east side of the lake you can see 10 of these jumping full time of air! i've seen 1 that jumped that must have been around 40'!!! come and check it out! Rice Lake Wisconsin but not on rice lake thats the name of the town go to Lake Montanis if you cant find it go in a gas station and ask, FISHING IS GREAT!

Darrell | Posted: April 19, 2002

I caught one today on Flag Lake on Barksdale Air Force Base. I was using minnows trying to land either bass or perch, but ended up with this fish. Didn't know what it was until someone on the lake told me. It put up a heck of a fight too.

[email protected] | Posted: April 4, 2002

Caught one by accident in a pond next to the East San Jacinto River in Cleveland, TX several years ago. I was using a Rapala minnow fishing lure. This damn fish stinks really bad and chewed my lure up.