Bowfin are beautiful species of fish and they’re powerful fighters. What’s more, they’re able to grow up to 20 lbs. But, why don’t we hear much about bowfin fishing or anglers discussing the best ways to catch bowfin? Are bowfin fish good to eat? Yes, they actually are very tasty; however, the EPA listed these species to be among those with extraordinarily high levels of mercury.
This is one of the main reasons why the bowfin is less popular in comparison to largemouth bass, walleye, trout, and pike among seafood chefs and anglers.
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Can You Eat Bowfin Fish?
Yes, but only in small amounts. Another reason why the fish aren’t very popular is because of their powerful jaws. Anglers are often deterred from mastering how to catch bowfin because they keep on losing their lures to the fish.
Still, you may want to target them. If so, you’re in luck as we’ve created a comprehensive guide on bowfin fishing. Read on for expert advice and the best tackle and baits to use!
Where Can I Find Bowfin?
Bowfin are species of fish that are common in the eastern US and southeastern Canada. You may be wondering, what do bowfin eat?
They are highly piscivorous. The fish also prefer clear yet slow-moving streams and canals. There are bowfin that have been spotted in weedy swamps and lakes recently. They stalk when hunting their prey near the riverbanks and in the shallows.
A reason why they prefer feeding in the shallows is because of their different anatomy. They come to the surface in order to gulp air from time to time and to regulate their buoyancy. Bowfin fish can be quite at home even in a body of water that has a lower level of oxygen.
Bowfin can be caught all year long and anglers that ice fish for bowfin are very productive. The species don’t prefer certain times of the day to feed. They’ll strike anything which piques their interest regardless of whether it’s day or night.
This means you will be able to try your hand at learning how to catch bowfin from morning till night and in warmer or colder water temperatures.
Methods for Catching Bowfin
It will be easier if you have caught muskie, walleye, or trout before. Many anglers have accidentally hooked bowfin when they targeted other predatory species.
This means you can use the same exact fishing methods suitable for catching some of the most well-known predators as they’ll work on bowfin. Actively fishing with different lures, wobbling dead or live baits, and flies is an incredible way as well.
Although bowfin fish aren’t picky in terms of bait, they generally prefer dead or live natural baits instead of lures. That being said, still water fishing using various rigs can be productive with or without floats.
Bowfin Fishing Bait and Lures
Two of the most effective natural baits you can use when bowfin fishing are crayfish or shrimp and nightcrawlers. They are incredible and highly effective when you are practicing stalking or still water fishing.
But, almost all types of small fish, either dead or alive e.g. whitefish, bluegill, roach, and minnows, or fish chunks or strips can work.
Given the fact bowfin fish prefer the shallow waters when feeding, they will strike a bait that’s near the bottom and at the surface. Targeting the fish in clear waters fly fishing style using large green locusts can be lots of fun!
If you want to use lures, you can try testing out spinner lures, crawfish or shrimp imitation crankbaits, and minnow spins. A minnow jig can also be productive.
But, if you want to use a wooden, rubber, or plastic lure, just know that there is a great chance the fish will ruin it and you’ll lose the lure from its incredibly powerful jaw. This is why it would be best if you stick with metallic artificial or natural bait, if possible.
Bowfin Fishing Tackle
- Rods: Use the same exact tackle that you would use when fishing for trout, bass, grunion or walleye. Light/medium light fishing rods can work for catching bowfin. In general, the average bowfin rod is 6’ to 9’6” long.
- Line: It can be somewhere around 15 to 20-pound test braid as you’ll most probably fish in snaggy water. Have a 30-lb+ leader in case you accidentally hook a pike.
- Reel: For bowfin fishing, pair your fishing pole with a medium/light reel.
- Hook: The fish have massive mouths and they can handle big baits. It would be best if you use bigger hooks, so bowfin fish won’t swallow them completely. You should also choose thicker hooks as they are muscular fish with strong jaws. You wouldn’t want the fish to straighten your hooks.
- Rigs: Use dead or live natural bait and ½ hook bean sinker rigs. Your bean sinkers should have a swivel where the hooks are tied. Bowfin aren’t easily spooked but they have great eyesight. This means a heavy leader can put the fish off. Use brown or green colored ones to resemble a weed or plant’s root. There’s no need to use a jig head. It doesn’t matter if your bait is floating or on the bottom. When bowfin fish think your bait looks all right, you’ll get a strike.
Done right and if you come prepared, bowfin fishing can be a lot of fun plus you’ll be able to catch other sought-after species. The information in this guide will help make the activity a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Bowfin aren’t typically targeted for their meat. Still, they can be very tasty if prepared correctly. Just make sure you don’t consume a lot as the fish contain higher levels of mercury.
If you’re looking for a challenge, the aggressive nature of bowfin makes them an excellent target regardless of your skill level.
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