Also known as the Mudfish, Mud Pike,Dogfish, Griddle, Grinnel, Swamp Trout, and Choupique. We now it as the Bowfin.
The Bowfin is another Canadian favourite, found primarily in Southern Ontario and Quebec. As water temperatures continue to climb it's likely that we'll see these species spread to other provinces.
They're ambush hunters with razor-sharp teeth who wouldn't be shy to take a bite out of you if they found the chance. They're almost always hungry and move surprisingly well through the waters with the average attack movement lasting about 0.075 seconds.
With that level of predatory skills and a definite "strong fighter" status, anglers are always excited at the chance to reel one in.
Canadian Bowfin Record:
The largest bowfin caught on record was yanked out of Lake Erie at 6.65kg (14.66 lbs). We've also seen reports of a bowfin of the exact same weight caught in Ontario's Whitefish Lake.
Anatomy of a Bowfin
The bowfin has some pretty unique features, making it fairly easy to identify.
46-61 CMs (18-24")
2-6 KG (4-13 lbs)
Runs almost the entire length of the spine with anywhere from 140 to 250 horizontal bars (rays).
Short and rounded with Irregular vertical bars.
Short Anal Fin/Pelvic Fin:
Usually a bright green or red colour, always fairly small. A small anal fin is the easiest way to tell the difference between a Bowfin and Snakeheads.
Squint your eyes a little and it's hard to tell which direction the fish in the picture is facing. That's the purpose of eyespot. It confuses predators and prevents fatal attacks. Female eyespots are all black where the male's have a faint orange circle around them.
As far as colourling goes, this fish is green(olive)-grey with a dark camouflage (reticulation) pattern. Its body is long and cylindrical with a white-ish underbelly.
The Bowfin is the last surviving relic species from the order of Ammiformes, which has survived since the Jurassic period - over 200 Million Years ago. Through those years they developed a modified swim bladder which allows them to gulp actual air.
How To Catch A Bowfin
Finding it is going to be the trickiest part. You'll need a small utility boat to track them down. The bowfin prefers swamps, backwaters, and shallow rivers/lakes with a lot of vegetative coverage. They hide under roots and rocks, and don't mind poorly oxygenated water since they're able to breath air.
If you do find them you're going to need live bait, or lures that imitate invertebrates such as;
- aquatic insects
Remember, they fight hard and have sharp teeth. So don't forget your braided or fluorocarbon line for leverage, and a taller rod with about 10lbs of test line so those razor sharp teeth don't cut right through it.
The Best Bowfin Recipe Around
Nope. Not a mistake.
Most people consider the Bowfin a trash fish and don't care to even try. But, there are always those brave few who'll try anything once. If that sounds like you, here's a few tips.
- keep it alive/fresh for as long as possible. Its flesh turns pretty quick.
- It's going to stink pretty bad when you start cutting it up.
- Keep it simple. Batter and fry your bowfin. Keep the meat small and thin.
That being said, regulations were set in place to protect sturgeon, making caviar much harder to produce. Bowfins' roe has since been lucratively harvested and placed on the market as Cajun Caviar. That may be something worth trying!
If you've eaten bowfin and love it, we'd love to hear about it. Throw your opinions up on Facebook and change some minds.
Yours In Boating,