Other Common Names
Bowfin are living relics, with primitive roots back 70 million years ago. Has a long, soft-rayed dorsal which arches in a bow over most of the length of its body. Tail is rounded, with distinct black spot rimmed with orange on males; black spot on females faint or absent and no orange rim. Its back and sides are brownish green or olive green, with mottled sides fading to yellowish or white. During spawning, its underside turns a bright yellow-green. Has a cylindrical body and a wide flattened head, almost snake-like, with deep-set dark eyes. Snout is rounded with short nasal barbels. Mouth is large and has conical-shaped teeth. Note: While the bowfin shares similar coloration and body shape with the northern snakehead (recently introduced to the Potomac River), the anal fin of a bowfin is much shorter than that of the snakehead, and snakeheads will not have the spot found on bowfin.
They are strong, muscular fighters and strike viscously at all manner of live bait and many artificials. Often fools an angler into thinking it’s whipped, and then suddenly explodes back into life. Minnows and a variety of jigs are best baits. Use a good stiff rod with at least 15 lb test line. Steel leaders may be necessary and don’t try to lip hold these fish! Food value is generally considered poor.
Feed mainly on other fishes, sometimes on crayfish, crayfish, mollusks, and frogs. They are nocturnal, but most active at dawn and disk, and often go on a spree after rains have clouded the waters and washed food into rivers and lakes.
Usually found in dark, sluggish waters with muddy bottoms and dense vegetation as well as tannin-stained swamps, rivers and lakes. Slower moving rivers or backwater sloughs of large rivers and some small lakes and ponds. Found only in eastern North America.
Spawns in April and May in marshy, weedy bays. Male forms a depression on firm bottom amid weeds, clearing all weeds away then conceals it with an umbrella of vegetation. Two females may spawn in one nest and will spawn in more than one nest in a spring. Usually spawns at night. Male guards and aerates the eggs. After they hatch, young attach to rootlets of vegetation by means of an adhesive organ, much like the pikes. The male will guard the young that travel in schools until they are about 3 or 4 ins. long.