Georgia update: Our state record bowfin was broken a few weeks ago (See picture). The previous record from 1976 was bested by this fish. This 16 lb, 3 oz, 33 1/4"-inch whopper beat the existing state record by three ounces. Congratulations to Jimmy Tucker of Statenville who caught this monster in the Suwannee River. See our website for more details.
Senior Fisheries Biologist
Wildlife Resources Division
Drew R and I took a trip to Southbridge on the Hardin Canal. I got the first bite, from a 5-6 lb bowfin, but the line broke due to a bad splice knot. I got another bite soon afterward, and after an impressive battle, landed my first 30-inch bowfin. It weighed in at a staggering 9 lbs, a personal record for me. Drew landed a 6-pounder, destroying the weight of his only other bowfin, which was 1 lb. Later, I caught a small spotted gar, which demonstrated its tenacity by stabbing my arm with its scales. It wasn't until that day that I became aware that the scales running up the backs of the anal and dorsal fins stick out and are very sharp. I later landed another 30-inch bowfin, which weighed 8 lbs. Drew caught a gar as well, his first... I was his "guide" on this trip, so I baited the hooks, unhooked the fish... and took all the pain. His gar also stuck me with its fin scales, effectively leaving a few puncture wounds in one arm to match the ones on my other arm.
Eventually, the biggest hit came, and on Drew's rod. He reeled in all the slack, felt the solid resistance, and reared back to set the hook. At first it seemed like any old bowfin, but then it gave a pull that was more than he was prepared for. After a relatively short but exciting fight, he reeled in a 30 inch, 10 lb bowfin, again shattering the previous 6-pound record from earlier that day. He outfished me on his second trip! Other bowfin were caught by each of us during various parts of the trip, but were smaller (but no less than 3 lbs) and were not photographed.
Tyler G, 10/10/11
Finally, the much anticipated trip to Southbridge on the Hardin Canal in Pooler. It didn't take long to catch the bait, but after I did, the action was nonstop. On a live bluegill, I landed a nice four pound bowfin. My grandpa commenced to land his first on a crankbait, and the crankbait also commenced to have the back hook broken off. I landed two more bowfin on cut bait as well as a turtle that weighed around 15 lbs. After landing a 28 inch spotted gar, I got a strike I was convinced was from at least a 4 foot longnose. I set the hook after a few minutes and received more resistance than I could have possibly been prepared for. After a minute or two, A massive bowfin surfaced. I took pictures and measured it. At 27.5 inches and 7 lbs, it literally tied with my largest bowfin on camera from earlier in the year.
Tyler G, 08/29/11
Luke H, Marcus H and I tried a spot of the Hardin Canal a litle upstream of where we usually fish, on the other side of the road. Originally, Luke was using a live minnow about 3/4" long to catch cut bait for the 'fins. Well, I guess he unintentionally skipped that bit. A 3 lb. bowfin followed up the minnow and smashed it. I was reeling in a bluegill to use while this happened; I was also across the road so I had no idea what was going on until I saw it. After photographing and measuring the bowfin, I set a cut bait line near a nice-looking patch of weeds. When I came back to check on it, something was pulling it downstream. I set the hook to find a 4 lb. monster on my line. Shame it went through some of those filamentous weeds; it put up only half the fight one normally would. We continued upstream to a pool where two tributaries come together to form the larger section of canal. Right when we got there, we saw a bowfin surface for air full-on
for the first time. Marcus got a bite after catsing upstream. He continued to lose the same bowfin three times on the kahle hook I put on his line. Luke landed another 4-pounder from the pool, and directly afterward, I got a bite and missed the strike. The excitement can be easily expressed in this video clip. Marcus got that bite again, and this time I advised him to set the hook sideways due to the hook style. He began to drag the 3-pounder onto the bank when it spit the hook. I slid down the bank and grabbed the confused creature and pull it onto land. Marcus celebrated his first catch of the day with an enthusiastic "What sayeth thou!". The action slowed about 20 minutes afterward, so we decided to call it a day.
Tyler G, 06/22/11
While B@$$ fishing from my kayak a few weeks ago I caught my first bowfin, which at the time I had no idea what it was. I found your website and determined what kind of fish it is. Today I was back out fishing Uchee Creek not far in from the Chattahoochie and caught several more Bowfin, all on a black Powerbait worm with a chartreuse tail. They seem to love the worms and drag my kayak all over God's creation. Uchee Creek is loaded with Bowfin and every one I have hooked has been over 5 pounds. Few people fish the area I was since it is only accessible by paddleboat.
Chase M, 06/13/11
Memorial Day weekend was fairly successful at the Hardin Canal. Monday, Luke H called me and told me we should release a bowfin he caught Saturday (he had it in a large tupperware container with hundreds of small holes drilled in it, immersed in the water and tied off to the land). I thought it was an average one due to his apathetic tone. When I opened the container, I came face-to-face with a five-pounder. At around 26" long and still very strong and energetic despite its two days of solitude in the container, it was quite a handful, nearly slapping me in the face on one occasion. We took a picture and released it unharmed.
Tyler G, 06/02/11
I caught this 23 1/2 in. bowfin in Little River in Georgia, his girth was around 11 in.
Steve C, 05/26/11
Here are a few recent bowfin from the Hardin Canal, Pooler. Two were caught by me, one by Luke H. Hopefully I'll get a big gar in for you soon.
Tyler G, 05/25/11
My first bowfin, caught 5-9-2011 with a shiner, approximately 22 inches long.
Steve C, 05/11/11
Monday, I took a trip to the Hardin Canal, Pooler just to toss some lures for 'fins since I didn't have time to catch cut bait. Most of the 2 hours went by with nothing, not even a nibble. As I got to the end section on Pine Barren road, though, Luke H got a bite 2 feet from the shore. He set the hook and missed. He made a few more casts into the same area, got another nibble, set the hook again and missed. Again. This time, the 'fin's head popped out of the water and I caught a glimpse of it. I then cast my baby brush hog (black sapphire, one of the canal's best producers) a few times, felt the hit, set the hook, and made a solid connnection. Seconds later I landed a decent male bowfin, I'm guessing 16-17" (no measurements, my tacklebox fell in the water and soaked my scale and measuring tape). My lure was texas rigged with a 40 lb. powerpro braid leader. Ase left for the canal entrance path, we spotted a good-sized gar (2 feet, maybe) cruising
in the open. Since we didn't have proper lures, we tried unsuccessfully to snag it (knowing how easily they can shrug off such minor wounds). Maybe I'll get him in a legit fashion another time.
Tyler G, 05/06/11
I went to that Hardin Canal in Pooler, GA on Saturday. My friend Drew R was staying the night and we kept talking about taking him to catch his first bowfin. So, right after he got to my house, we wasted no time, heading the the pond to catch our cut bait. When we cut through the woods to reach the canal, I took Drew to a hotspot where Luke, Marcus and I usually got bites. Not too long afterward, Drew's line (my medium-action pole with 40-lb. braid main line) got a take. He quickly reeled in a 15", 1 lb. male 'fin (small, but fought enthusiastically, until about ten minutes after landing it). As I was filming him with his catch, my own line (ultralight with 15 lb. braid main line) got a bite, and bigger. I handed the camera to Drew and set the hook. The powerful fish fought for a couple of seconds before handing my hook, line and sinker back to me. This repeated once more before we left for dinner.
Tyler G, 05/03/11
While fishing with Luke and Marcus H, Marcus caught his biggest bowfin at the Hardin canal the other day. He was using cut bait on the bottom. Not too long afterward, I hooked into a good sized bowfin, a 18", 3 lb. female. From Thursday through Sunday, I went on my camping trip at Strom Thurmond Lake with nothing abnormal except a chain pickerel. When I came back, I found out that the Hardin Canal had been poisoned. Whatever substance it was, it cut off the oxygen supply, killing every fish EXCEPT the bowfin and gar. This gave me an idea: transfer every bowfin and gar we catch there from then on and put them into a nearby pond. So far we have transferred two female bowfin and one male. Saving the bowfin has become our new mission.
Tyler G, 04/30/11
Took yet another trip to the Hardin Canal with Luke H and Marcus H. I started out alone, but they joined me an hour into my trip. I started out getting a bite on my ultralight while using hot dogs for bluegill. With the drag
screaming the way it was, I knew it was a bowfin. while I rushed to get my camera out of my pocket for a video, the 15 lb. braid peeling off my spool cut my finger because I was trying to gingerly handle the line as to play the
bowfin. I suddenly felt my line go slack. I had lost a good sized one. I continued the day using cut bluegill and recapturing the 27", 7 lb. female that I caught last Thursday (same torn maxilla and anal fin). I moved downstream a
little later and saw the line on my ultralight move... and then I hooked into another big bowfin. The drag on my reel screamed. after a good brawl I landed another 27-incher, but weighing in at 6 lbs. I looked for the wounds present in
the other 27" beast and concluded that this one was definitely a different one.I took pics and video and released it.
After I went home for dinner, I got a call saying that Luke had caught a huge one. I rushed down there to see a pic on
his older brother's (Vincent's) phone. I agreed- it was huge. Luke estimated it at 32", a seemingly 8 lb. fish. Then, Lukes line, which I had recasted, moved. I waited for the telltale sign- the line rushing off the spool... and set the
hook. After landing this beast, which had repeatedly torn line off the spool and refused to get in the net (my arm hurt after fighting this one, on top of using a rod with the reel handle on the other side... not easy) I contemplated how I
even caught it, seeing as Luke's line had no steel or braid leader- only 15 lb. mono tied directly onto a treble hook. Using a 6-inch Zoom trick worm as a measurement tool (talk about bootleg!) I estimated it at 29", a 7 lb. or so
porker. No picture, because my phone won't connect properly to the internet. Other 'fins were caught but not as big; I also wasn't there to photograph them. I have included a short video clip of my fight with the 6-pounder.
Tyler G, 04/19/11
I went to the Hardin Canal again and was seriously surprised. I caught 3 bluegill and put the first bluegill's head on. Not 2 minutes later I had a take. I set the hook too soon and heard my drag scream wildly before the line went slack. This repeated with a bluegill's body, even with a better hookset. My friend came along and with a second head, I cast out into the same area. It wasn't long before she came back. This sime I waited a long time before the hookset, and then gave it a jerk that would nearly rip the mouth out of a bass. Several minutes later I landed my personal best by a longshot. A 27", 7 lb. female. The beast almost bit me! A seriously lucky catch. See, a week ago I was using an ultralight and the 15 lb. line snapped on the hookset. This time when I set the hook, it was stuck in the old 80 lb. leader from the old line. No joke. My friend, Luke, got it all on camera.
I went to the canal again (within walking distance, very convenient) and my friend, Luke H, who I have mentioned before, was fishing for bluegill with shrimp and a treble hook with two barbs cut off. He felt a strong tug and assumed it was the huge bluegill he had lost the day before. He soon realized that this was no bluegill!! We soon landed the 21", 3 lb. 'fin... and then it tore a hole in his net. Luckily, though, it stayed in and we took pics and released it. A little small for a female, but still a decent catch and for the record, we have landed more 'fins in two months than I did all last season. Cut bait is the secret. I use an 18" 80 lb. braid leader and a 2/0 baitholder hook with no more than 1 split shot on the leader; I fish on the bottom of the shallow canal. By the way, I have more success on the coastlock style snap swivel than with any of the others. The rarely ever straighten. Hope this helps other 'finners.
Tyler G, 04/15/11
I fished the Hardin Canal, Pooler, GA a few days ago and started out using hot dogs. I kept getting nibbles but nothing was actually taking. So I had an idea that it was bluegill biting the hot dog and couldn't pick it up. So I tested my theory and rigged a small hook with a little piece of hot dog on my ultralight setup. I reeled in a bluegill seconds later. Boy, was I in luck. I cut him up and put his head on a 2/0 baitholder hook on an approx. 18" 80 lb. braid leader (my 40 lb. was instantly severed on two occasions, on previous trips) and left the bail open. Not 5 minutes later a large bowfin ran with my bait. I can't explain in words the excitement I get when a big fish takes. I drove the hook home! With my stout tackle (40 lb. main line and a medium-action ugly stik), it took less than half a minute to land it. I measured
and weighed it, and the large female turned out to be 24" long and 4 lbs., my longest and probably heaviest bowfin to date. Don't worry, I'll have that first gar of the season in for you too sometime this spring or summer.
Tyler G, 04/09/11
My husband and I were fishing for whatever wanted to bite that day and just before we were ready to go home my bobber disappeared and my fishing line was going with it. After a pretty good fight I reeled in a 7 pound bowfin. We were really surprised! I caught it on a live minnow about 3-4 inches on a medium circle hook on a wire leader with a small bobber. My first bowfin ever, I don't care what anyone else thinks I think they are kind of pretty. After taking some pics and letting him go I look up and my other bobber slides under the water, that line had a tiny bluegill I caught earlier. This bowfin was much smaller but still a good fight! I am hooked on bowfins and gars now! I caught these a few miles south of Fort Benning's Uchee Creek.
I caught two fins on my last outing to the Hardin canal. I was using cut bluegill. The pic showing the teeth is of a 14-incher that grabbed my bait as I was pulling it in. As I moved the bait into the shallows, here it came (CUE JAWS MUSIC) and sucked the bait right up. I ended up hooking it under the gular plate, making the hook hard to remove from that area of particularly thick skin. It easily shook off the large cut that resulted.
But, the other pic is of a particularly wily one. NO KIDDING, this thing fought HARD. It took about two minutes before I was able to grab it with both hands and bring it up onto the bank (note that the canal is only 15' wide). It felt somwhere around 7 lbs. and was a solid 21 inches, my biggest bowfin yet, with 1/4" teeth, the one that's been avoiding me since this spring! It fought so hard I was afraid my 40 lb. braid would snap it I tried to lift it with the line. It was gut hooked with a treble and I had to cut the line, but note that fish can slowly dissolve hooks. It should be fine...
Tyler G, 10/12/10
I'm 14 years old and already a bowfin enthusiast. I caught my first about a year ago while fishing for bass at a canal in GA. At first I was disappointed and thought of it as a pest, but after seeing your site that all changed. I have caught two other good bowfin since then, and you can expect more in the near future. Please do post my pictures on your site. Thanks for your insight on his wonderful fish.
Tyler G, 09/03/10
Attached is pic of bowfin caught on the Ocmulgee River, below Hawkinsville, GA on Aug 28. We did not know what it was, until I found your website. We released him right after this pic was taken.
Jeff L, 09/03/10
Here's a coupla updates for ya on the Georgia BOWfin front. I caught a couple on New Years Day (a great way to ring in the new year!) using a 5Ã¢â‚¬Âtrick stick (Mardi Gras (green)). Also several images of a bowfin carcass I ran across near a lake IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve yet to hook one up on (still out there somewhere!). The 19 Jun 10 image is of a pretty nice fin that clobbered a 5Ã¢â‚¬Â trick stick (blood red) on a 3.0 EWG Gamakatsu hook near shore on the retrieve. He was more than a little angry at being tricked which explains the cloth in play (I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wanna get bit!) Still on the hunt for that monster Bowfin I know is out there
Paul L, 06/21/10
I was using a bottom rig for catfish on post at work and caught this one in a creek that runs into the Chattahoochee River on Fort Benning. I caught it today. Had to look it up and found your site.
James M, 06/04/10
After catching my first bowfin on 9 Nov 09 I have been on the hunt for another hookup with this awesome fighter. Lightning struck twice on a recent Saturday at another local lake (28 Nov 09). The first one was hanging in mid-water about 5 feet from the shore when I spotted him (thank you Costa Del Mar [polarized]). I flipped a 5" blood red dinger in front of him and BLAM!! It was on! That fish stirred so much water when he went into a death roll it was unreal. Fortunately I had 20# Powerpro braided spectra line on my rod. It was a short distance, high excitement fight to get him through the
sawgrass and into hand.
A short while later approaching the waters edge at another spot I noticed another fin nosed right up to the shore. I used the same tactic as before only this time I dropped the lure from directly above. Unlike a b@$$ the bowfin was not spooked and after basically walking the lure across the top of his head and out in front the second (smaller) bowfin jumped it viciously. WOW that was great!! What an awesome animal to catch on a line! I have several fly rods and one of these days I'll break them out for some bowfin on the fly!
In the meantime: Keep FINNIN!!
Paul L, 12/09/09
I caught this bowfin on Saturday afternoon the 7th of November in St Marys Ga. Until that moment I had never heard of, much less seen, such a critter. I thought I had an angry LM B@$$ on the line til I got it to the shore. Fortunately, there was another angler nearby who ID'd the fin for me. I gingerly returned him to the water and I'm looking forward to catching his
big brother one day soon...
Paul L, 11/09/09
Here is a good hot spot for those central GA anglers.
James N, 06/09/09
Tersh and I had another productive trip to Okefenokee this month in spite of the fires. We were there the week before they moved into the Swamp and the Cypress Trout were biting big time. With the ultra low water levels right now, all the Bows are congregated in the canals and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really a lot of fun. No records this trip but lots of big guys. Caught quite a few on clouser flies but Mepps on spinners are still king.
Jim S, 05/07/07
My name is Beth E and my husband is Richard E. We are both from South Georgia,and would love to join your group! We had our first experience with Bowfin in the Okefenokee a while back, and we are hooked (no pun intended!). We caught several of them and released the ones that we could, but three we kept because they beat the heck out of themselves in the boat. We took them home, determined to eat them so that they would not go to waste. We actually didn't know what we had until we got home and found your website, though we suspected they might be bowfin. I have never caught anything that fought like that!
We actually had bowfin for dinner tonight, fried crispy, and it was DELISH! What an under-rated fish!
Here are pictures from our trip to the Okefenokee :-) We actually caught about 10-11 of the rascals ranging in size from about a foot (which we released), all the way up to the three big jokers that we kept. We caught all of them using just standard spoons with no frills, and 30 pound test on a regular rod/reel. My husband wants to go back and try to catch some with a fly rod! Should be a blast!
Well we're really tickled to have found your site! We are sort of
amateurs at fishing, having just started this past year, but we are addicted
already! Our favorite hangout is on the Canoochee River, property of
Ft. Stewart, (3rd Infantry Division) GA, near Savannah - beautiful,
quiet and serene. Our aim was to catch catfish....but then, we started catching
these strange looking fish - with teeth! Real fighters too, sometimes
even got away! As amateurs, we had no idea what the heck they were and we had no
camera with us. I, Vickie, caught the biggest one so far, measuring 18
inches long. Michael wanted to bring him home, but I wouldn't let him.
I made him let the poor thing go. I had heard something about a
'mudfish', 'grinnel' and it being some sort of prehistoric
creature...had to look it up on the Internet out of curiosity. That's
how I found your site - and all the other names, including 'Bowfin'.
It's great to read all about them in the other stories and verify what
we have seen with pictures shown.
So, we will take our camera with us next time and take pic's to share
with you if we catch any more. So far we've caught 2 in the past week
- Michael's got away, and the one I caught we let go.
Vickie & Michael, 10/31/06
We just did another trip in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. Cypress
Trout are biting like crazy in there as the water levels have been low. We
didn't catch any more world records on the fly rod this trip but caught lots
of 6-8 pounders with attitudes. This is a beautiful place and a great
fishing trip for not only Muds but lots of Chain Pickerel and Warmouth.
White Clousers and red/yellow bendback flies are hot and, as always, Mepps
Aglia streamers are fantastic.
Jim S, 09/11/06
I had a slow weekend, but was able to bring in one smallish fin along with
a few good sized jacks. This male weighed in at 4lb 7oz, but put up a
good fight none the less. Hopefully there will be more pics to follow.
DerekH, Georgia, 05/23/06
I was glad to find your site. We thought we were the only crazy people who
chased Bowfins! I actually just caught and submitted a pending IGFA world
record on the fly rod in 8lb tippet class; around 8lbs.
I have a partner, Tersh H, who spin fishes and has honed it down to an art. The
surprising thing is that I don't see much mention of the area we go which is
International Bowfin heaven; Okefenokee Swamp. I'm including several pics of Georgia Cypress Trout. Most were caught on the fly but we also catch them on light spinning tackle.
It's kind of been our secret for years but if you really enjoy catching
Bowfin, you've got to do a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. We release
everything we catch and try not to even touch them. We just don't want a
bunch of knuckleheads in there killing the fish. This group seems pretty
Lots of 4-8 pounders and we've hooked one that may have gone 20(on the fly!)
but didn't have a net and couldn't turn him to the boat. After 30 minutes,
he broke the hook. Like all fish in the swamp, the bowfin are very dark;
almost black due to the tannin stained water. These fish are used to
running from Gators so they move quickly when hooked.
We believe they do so well because there are absolutely no b@$$ in the
swamp. The PH levels changed years ago and all the b@$$ disappeared. There
are very few, only small catfish as well. As such, the Bowfin is the
largest predator fish in the swamp.
The same water also holds the world record Chain Pickerel. There's a guy out of Alabama that I've been battling for fly rod records onthe Bowfin for a while. We'll get your Georgia page up to speed if you'd like.
Jim S, 05/19/06
If I had not stumbled by accident upon your excellent and informative website two days ago, I would not have known what this fish (that I expected to be a 10 pound b@$$) really was. Certainly deserving of the praise she receives on your site, this fish fought like a champion! I caught her on a live shad in a shallow Chattahoochee tributary (Uchee Creek area). I am an instant bowfin fan!
The spot is on the Georgia side of the Chattahootchee on a shallow flat about a mile or so south of Uchee Creek, near the place Oswichee Creek hits the Chattahoochee River. The flooded area around the creek may not be substantial enough to show up as blue on the map, but we were in there about 30 yards from the channel, and the area was about 30 yards across, tapering down to almost nothing about 150 yards from the Chattahoochee's main channel.
I would definitely call it a Georgia fin, but I suspect he may have dual citizenship.
Keep up the great work on your website!
Ty F, Ft. Benning GA, 05/16/06
I wanted to send you a photo of a Bowfin I caught this past Sunday. She was around 28-30 inches long and weighed in at 7lb 7oz. There's a small creek called Sandy Run that feeds into the Ocmulgee river here in Warner Robins GA (just south of Macon). The land around
the Ocmulgee is very low and prone to flooding. As a result, there is a lot of great Bowfin habitat. I'm also sending you a picture of a small male that I caught yesterday. It shows the flooded areas that I'm talking about.
For the record, I spent last year chasing down Chain Pickerel, aka "Jackfish", hence the nickname. The Jack's are tough fighters; pound for pound at least equal to the Bowfin, but the just don't get really big. It was quite a thrill to catch a 7-pound Bowfin on relatively light tackle.
DerekH, Georgia, 03/16/06
9 pound, 14 ounce fin was caught in Georgia
on a large shiner while fishing for b@#$. It hit right before dark. A
few minutes later my father-in-law caught an 11 1/2 pound largemouth,
but we were so excited about the bowfin that the pic of the b@$$ never