Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bowfin: Attempt One

Bowfin (Amia calva) are bimodal breathing ambush predators found primarily in the Eastern U.S. and parts of Canada. They are up there in the ranks of weird American fish, right alongside gar and sturgeon. They have some of the most unique spawning colors you will ever see on a fish: Grass to emerald green lights up their fins and belly.

For these reasons, and the fact that I am a total fish species nerd, bowfin have been on my list for a while. They inhabit weedy, muddy, warm backwaters, making them a challenge to target with flies. But I never back down from a challenge. So today Noah and I rigged up the kayaks and went a huntin'.

Now, there are not a whole lot of places within a reasonable drive that have bowfin. In CT and MA there is very little out there about their existence, just faint rumblings in the bass community and the occasional forum post about them being caught through the ice in the Connecticut River. Since there are so few bodies of water that hold them I know I'm at risk by posting this at all. Fortunately, you have to be a massive idiot to waste valuable fishing time on a fish that is so damn uncommon when you could just fish for bass or pike. Luckily, I have two things: loads of time to fish, and no lack of fish nerdyness. In other words I'm willing to put up with some serious frustrations for some chance at a locally rare fish.



Did we catch bowfin today? No. Did we come close? Very! I had a number of takes that were unlike anything I had ever seen before and one I saw was plainly nothing but a bowfin. Noah had some highly suspicious takes as well. Bowfin have extremely hard mouths, making hooking them difficult... so at least we have something to blame it on.

I did catch a whole pile of fish. In fact, I caught just about everything BUT a bowfin. Largemouth, chain pickerel. pumpkinseed, crappie, even two BROOK TROUT came to hand. What an odd day. I caught two brook trout in a row on a huge chartreuse bunny leech in a muddy backwater inlet. And yet nothing toothy, brown, and capable of breathing air came to hand. 













I'm coming for you, mudfish. This isn't over yet. 

13 comments:

  1. Not sure if my post about the masswildlife article from a few years back on catching Bowfin came through... If I can find one in my old copies Ill scan it and try and get it to you. If not, this link may provide contact info to help you hunt a copy down: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/publications/massachusetts-wildlife-magazine.html

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  2. A good day for kayaks in back water. Seems strange to catch those trout there. Love those pickerel. You will catch a mudfish when you least expect to, but a good one for the bucket list.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

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    1. It's hard to catch a bowfin unexpectedly in CT given the water they live in and the fact that the live in exactly 2 watersheds in this state.

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  3. Thanks for the post. Amazing there are brookies in that water. Stocked, I would assume? So much for cold, clean water. I can't imagine they'd survive there much longer.

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    1. They are stocked, but the water they were in was definitely cold and more than clean enough. Wild trout have been caught in there.

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  4. OK that does it. From now on, I'm using my chartreuse self-tied rockfish flies to go for trout. Heck, They keep hitting streamers so why not?
    As for the backwater, it is still cool in CT. I caught a brown in a *pond* in MA that has sunfish that are *hot* when you unhook them! (But the bottom water is still cool...)

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    1. Two random fish does not a pattern make gios. ;)

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  5. Like others above, I am surprised to see those nice brook trout in that kind of slow water. Is there a feeder brook somewhere in the area that they could have dropped down from? Those are very nice brookies.

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    1. They were in a creek channel in the backwater were the water was probably around 60 degrees, but the only trout in the creek are wild. These fish were stocked in the lake and found their way to that cold water.

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  6. Check out salmon river cove or Chapman's pond, you'll find them up in the weeds near the carp

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    1. Thanks for the tip, but we chose our spot specifically because it is a more closed system and has a higher population density of bowfin. CT River backwaters are in mind as well, but we are going to give this place a fair shake first given that we found bowfin there on the first try.

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