Fishing the Connecticut River for Bowfin




“What is this crazy thing?”  Kyle thought he had another catfish on the river bank but a closer  inspection made him

jump back and call for Shawn to help him with this prehistoric looking fish  Shawn had never seen one in the flesh but was convinced he was looking at a Bowfin, I had just told him there was an upsurge of Bowfin in the Connecticut River a few days prior to their catch.  They quickly snapped a picture on a cell phone and  sent it to me for confirmation.

This scenario is happening up and down the Connecticut River! Connecticut Outfitters in Wethersfeld  can attest to this, they have had numerous customers come into the shop with a picture or description of a Bowfin wondering what they had caught!

The Bowfin

Bowfin can be caught on the Connecticut River


“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. Other names — grinnel, brindle, blackfish, spot tail, mudfish, dogfish, shoepike, cypress bass, cypress trout, choupique, scaly cat, buglemouth bass, German bass, brindlefish.”

Bowfin identification

“Body color of the bowfin is dark olive above with lighter sides and cream-colored belly. The long dorsal fin is dark green with a narrow longitudinal olive-colored band near the top margin and another near the base. The males have a dark spot on the caudal fin, bordered with yellow or orange. 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. The swim bladder serves as a lung, giving the bowfin air breathing capability”.

Bowfin are well known for their incredible strength and fearlessness and a tackle busting fight that will get an anglers adrenalin rushing!

5 pound Bowfin Landed by Kyle Paris


How to catch a Bowfin

Your rod and reel:   I have caught many Bowfin while bass fishing with a  typical bass fishing rod and reel although folks who actually target the Bowfin will often use stronger tackle with lines rating up to 40 lb. test and stronger hooks on their lures or bait

Yes, Bowfin will strike lures with a vengeance!

  •  A Bowfins diet is very similar to that of the bass, loving crayfish, live fish, shrimp, insect larvae, frogs and more and they have an incredible appetite and are very capable predators changing their diet from insects to live fish when they reach an approximate size of  only 4 inches .
  • When using fresh cut bait nothing beats a nice chunk of fresh eel! That is what Kyle caught his Bowfin on.

  • To locate a spot that would be an ideal habitat for Bowfin, look for lakes or slow moving rivers  with underwater vegetation, rocky areas, undercut banks and other structure.

Although some folks eat the Bowfin and claim it is good table fare, they contain up to 5 times the mercury levels of any fresh water fish so I’m not an advocate of eating Bowfin.

Right now is the best time to catch Bowfin they love warm water and can thrive in many water conditions, including low oxygen and polluted waters  since they have an air bladder that operates much like a lung allowing them to breathe air and live out of water for extended periods of time.

The most productive method would be cut bait fished in the Connecticut River in one of the coves or bends from Middletown north up the Ct River, Keeney Cove in Glastonbury is one very good location. Your rig will be a simple hook and sinker set up as you would for Cat fish or other bottom fish.

The Bowfin is said to fight better than many well known game fish and they are very colorful and beautiful fish, so why not target the Bowfin on your next fishing adventure.







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