Bowfin live in lakes, ponds and wetlands near vegetation. They can also be found in river cutoffs, ditches, floodplains and pools that form in small streams. The best technique for catching Bowfin is drift fishing or still fishing using cut bait.


Region: Midwest, South
Habitat: Lake, River, Pond

How to identify Bowfin

Bowfins are easily identified because of their flat head, long body, round tail, wide mouth, and sharp teeth. They have a long dorsal fin that runs down the majority of their back. The upper section of the caudal peduncle in males has a distinct marking with a yellow-orange halo around it. The marking in females, however, is not distinctive or may be absent altogether. Its air bladder has a connection to the throat and is used to gulp surface air, causing it to function as a lung. The bowfin has an uncanny ability to withstand high temperatures as evidenced by its presence in waters that are uninhabitable for most other fish.

Where to catch Bowfin

Bowfins can be found in the eastern United States from the basin of the Mississippi River to the northern St. Lawrence River. They are found from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast, and from east Texas to Florida.

Range: Midwest, South
Bowfin Fishing Map

The following are habitats where you can catch Bowfin:

How to catch Bowfin

Bowfins are not good to eat, but they are excellent gamefish because of their fighting nature. They even have a fishing sport named after them called bowfishing. Look for them in areas with a lot of vegetation. One technique that works well is to use bluefish as bait, chopping off the fins so it can sink down to where the bowfin is sitting. Pieces of cut up fish also are effective bait for catching bowfin.

The best time to fish for bowfin is in the evening when they feed. Once one is on the hook, be prepared for a good fight. Also note that these fish can be very aggressive, so be careful when removing the hook.

The following are effective fishing methods and techniques for catching Bowfin:

Best Lures, Bait & Tackle to catch Bowfin

Bowfins are carnivorous fish, so they respond well to fresh bait. Bluefish work particularly well, especially when the fins are removed.

The following are fishing lures, bait and tackle that can be used to catch Bowfin: