The bowfin is the only living representative of an ancient family of fishes. It has an air-bladder that functions like a lung, and can be seen gulping air. They have a long, stout body; big mouth with small, sharp teeth; long dorsal and rounded tail fin. Males have a dark spot with a bright orange halo on the tail fin. The spot is absent or inconspicuous on females.


Prefers swamps, or backwaters of lowland streams. They live in warm, poorly oxygenated waters.


Males clear a nest among heavy vegetation. Eggs are laid at night and males guard them. Larvae use an adhesive organ to anchor themselves.

State Record:

19.0 lbs. Big Catch: 30 inches or 10 lbs.

Fishing Tips and Facts:

Bass anglers are often surprised to find a bowfin has taken their lure. Mudfish, another frequenlty used nickname for these fish, strike topwater and deep-running lures but are most often caught on live bait. It is a better fighter, than some highly rated game fish. The flesh is jelly-like, but can be prepared smoked, fried as patties or stewed.

Additional Information:

Image Credit: Duane Raver, Jr.

FWC Facts:
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 operating a vessel powered by 10 hp or more must pass an approved boater safety course and carry a photo ID & FWC-issued boating safety card.

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