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Bowfin~The Living Fossil

January 24, 2022

Bowfin~The Living Fossil

Amia calva bowfin is a demersal, freshwater fish with other names such as mud pike, cotton fish, blackfish, grindle, freshwater dogfish, beaver fish, swamp trout, cypress trout and what not. Bowfin fish is water piscivores.

Bowfin fish dates back to the Jurassic Period and is the only left member of its family; due to this reason, the bowfin is regarded as the “living fossil”.

General Characteristics of Bowfin Fish:

Body Color and Body Shape:

Bowfin body is olive-green to brown. The body is elongated and cylindrical. The body has a particular camouflage pattern or vertical bars. The belly is creamy white.

Body Size and Body Weight:

Female bowfin is larger than males, and the average body size is about 109 cm, while the body weight may range to 9.75 kg.

Fins:

The tail fin of the bowfin is rounded and has black circular spots. Males also have orange-yellowish borders of these circular spots.

The caudal and dorsal fin has vertical and horizontal bars, respectively. The anal fin of the bowfin is green. The dorsal fin of bowfin fish is large.

Jaws:

Bowfin has a gular plate and has long and sharp conical teeth.

Scales:

Bowfin lack ganoid scales; instead, they have large single-layered cycloid scales.

Gills:

Bowfin has the ability to breathe in both water and air as they are bimodal breathers. Bowfin has a gas bladder to maintain buoyancy. Gills help them to breathe in water by exchanging gases.

Bowfin fish have the ability to survive aquatic hypoxia, as they can break surface water to take air for breathing.

Habitat of Bowfin Fish:

Bowfin fish can survive acidic waters but are inactive to temperatures below 10 °C and mostly active at 18 °C. Bowfin preferred the brackish waters, lowland rivers, swamps, lakes, vegetated sloughs.

Due to their camouflaging ability, it is difficult to spot them in water with abundant vegetation. Deeper waters are the best habitat for bowfin.

Distribution of Bowfin Fish:

Bowfin fish is present in the North American waters from Great Lakes and Mississippi River, eastern United States, and southern Canada.

Diet of Bowfin Fish:

Bowfin is regarded as voracious predators as they eat most of the native game fish and eat crustaceans, insects, snakes, amphibians, shad, minnows, small rodents. Bowfin makes swift movements within 0.075 seconds.

They are ambush predators. Bowfish, on the one hand, decreases the quality of game fish but at the same time prevents overpopulation of forage fish.

Life Cycle of Bowfin Fish:

The average lifespan of bowfin is 30 years in captivity, while in the natural habitat, they can live up to 12 years and sexually mature at the age of two to three years of age.

The bowfin spawning season is spring in April and June. Males construct the nest to attract females. Spawning mainly occurs at night, and the best temperature for spawning is 16–19 °C.

Bowfin Fishing:

John Sherlock said about bowfin fish, 

“Bowfins are arguably the most scrappy ­junkyard-​dogfish in freshwater.”


The anglers can find bowfin in the less appealing areas of slow-moving waters; there is no chance that bowfin is present in polluted water. Bowfin is not hard to find. The actual challenge is how to catch bowfin as they have strong jaws and can breathe in the air; they fight more powerfully as they can turn, twist, and jump.

You must have the following things when you go bowfin fishing, and these are,

  • A spinning reel and rod
  • Sharp hook set
  • Live and artificial lures 
  • Bobber rigs
  • Hook remover
  • Fish gripper
  • Steel leader

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