Bowfin Pond, Chapel Hill, NC

I have had a particularly busy week in all ways, with the prospect of a few happy hours of fishing as my reward. Our Carolina Fishing Club has been thinking about adopting a small lake that is near the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. It's a small lake (only three or four acres in size), but its location and healthy eco-system make it a diamond in the rough. The fishing club's anglers have been scouting it, making plans for clean-up, planning an event or two, and fishing. Our first project: determine what species are present in the lake.

Strangely, the lake - which is in a central location - does not have a name (so far as I can tell). I've fished the lake twice this year, catching a few small post spawn b@$$ near the bank. No matter how you fished the lake, the only solid strikes were shallow and near structure where the fry are hugging the shore (the fry are everywhere these days). So I switched from my usual crank bait spinning rig to a jig and crayfish rig on a bait casting rod. My strategy was simple: walk around the lake, take a few photos and notes for the lake's restoration, and stop every once in a while to catch a few fish (even if they are only b@$$).

Every so often a large fish would smash my lure but I could never get a good hook set or a good look at the fish. Then something strange happened. First, I pulled a seven pound b@$$ out of a brush pile last week. And then I came across a heron that was eating a rather large catfish on the bank. Once the word of my large b@$$ got around, the club members became very interested in the lake, and one of them even landed a five pound b@$$. Quite frankly, I hadn't thought the lake supported any large predatory fish.

So I returned to the lake the other day with a suspicion: maybe some of the large fish that I had hooked on previous days were not b@$$. I put down the camera and the notebook and I started fishing with some focus. What if there were Bowfin in the lake? It made sense? The lake is only three miles from one of the Durham impoundments, and a creek nearby probably holds them as well. So I switched to a rod with braided line, sharpened my hooks, and met some of the club's anglers at the lake.

I was not surprised when one of the anglers in our club landed this nice male Bowfin on his second cast. The fish was about 20 inches long and it smashed a white Senko worm as the angler passed the lure near a stump. The mystery was solved: the large fish that were slamming my jigs were not b@$$, but Bowfin. Since it is harder to get a strong hook set in a Bowfin with a large single hook, it only made sense.

Finally, after months of trying new spots, I finally confirmed the presence of Bowfin in a most unlikely place: a small lake next to the soccer field that is only about one mile from my house.

I attached a few pics and the Google satellite link. The lake is between Hamilton Drive and Cleland Road near the University Mall. As I noted earlier, the lake is not named on any maps or websites, and the locals have no name for it either. I think it's a shame that such a nice place be deprived of a name, so I've decided to call it "Bowfin Lake." Hopefully it will stick.

Be sure to read the Durham Impoundments page for tips on line, lures, tackle, handling your catch, clothing and safety gear.

HenryV, 04/28/08

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