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The bowfin is a primitive type fish and the sole representative of an ancient fish family dating from the Jurassic period, appx. 180 million years ago. The ability to breathe air is attained early in life and is used most frequently at night and when water temperature is high, coinciding with periods of greatest activity. The bowfin is able to survive prolonged air breathing periods. Young bowfin have been observed surviving for 21 days in a pond with no standing water. The bowfin is primarily carnivorous, feeding largely on fishes of all kinds, frogs, crayfish, large insects and their larvae, leeches and other aquatic life. A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
Bowfin Fishing Bowfin (Amia calva) - Also known as: mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, grindle, blackfish, cotton fish, swamp bass, cypress trout. Inhabits the eastern U.S.A. from the Mississippi River basin eastward to the St. Lawrence River in the North, and Southward from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast; from Eastern Texas to and including throughout Florida's freshwater lakes and rivers. Bowfin growth is very rapid, may grow to over 3 ft long and weigh over 15 lbs.
Description
    The bowfin is the only living representative of an ancient family of fishes. They have flattened large head that has no scales, long, stout body, and large mouth full of small, sharp teeth. Long dorsal fin that extends along more than half the length of the back with a narrow longitudinal olive-colored band near the top margin and another near the base and contains more than 45 rays. Rounded tail, the backbone extends part way into it. None of the fins have spines. The pelvic fins are set far back on the belly near the middle of the body. The pectoral fins are low on the sides so that the overall appearance is one of three sets of fins in a row: the pectorals behind the head, the pelvic near the mid-body, and the anal fin near the tail. Also, two short tube-like barbells are located near the nostrils. Body color of the bowfin is dark olive above with lighter sides and cream-colored belly. Several dark brown, horizontal bars are often evident on the cheeks. Males have a dark spot with a yellow or bright orange halo (border), on the upper part of the tail fin. The spot is absent or not noticeable on females. It is able to gulp air from the surface directly into the air bladder, which is connected to the throat and can be used as a lung. It can also withstand high temperatures, for which reasons it survives in waters unsuited to most other fishes.
    Lower fins are green, vivid as fresh paint, during the breeding season. There are 66 to 68 scales in the lateral line. The dorsal fin contains 47 to 5l soft rays and the anal fin 9 or l0 rays. The head is more or less flattened on top and the mouth is large. The teeth are sharp and strongly set in the jaws. Weights of 6 to 8 pounds or more are commonly attained.

Habitat and Habits
    Bowfins tend to be found in deeper water during the day, and migrate into shallower areas used to feed at night. Their swim bladder is used as a lung and they may be seen surfacing to renew their air supply from time to time. The bowfin prefers swamps, sloughs and pools, backwaters of lowland streams. Usually found near vegetation. They live in warm, poorly oxygenated waters that are uninhabitable to most fishes. Bowfins live through-out the southeast, from the Mississippi River to the Canadian border and south through Florida. If you want to catch one, they like live bait and artificial, seeming to be especially fond of blue worms.

Spawning
    The bowfin spawns in the spring, usually in May, in shallow quiet bays or backwaters of a river. It is a nest-builder and deposits the eggs in a saucer-like depression on the bottom or over sticks and vegetation. The eggs are guarded and tended by the male until they hatch, and the young are herded about in schools until they are able to shift for themselves. Bowfin attain a length of 6 to 8 inches at the end of the first growing season and often reach 2 feet or more at maturity.

Fishing MethodsFishing Techniques includes: still fishing, live bait, casting. While it will strike top water and deep-running artificial lures, it is most often caught in the spring and early summer on minnows, worms, frogs, and crayfish or cut bait. It is considered poor as a food fish, but an excellent fighter, better than some highly rated game fish. Bowfins do pull hard. That is what they are good for.
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