Far from ugly, the bowfin sports some of the prettiest colors seen in freshwater fish. Thanks to HenryV for the idea to point this out.
||Bee K with a rare melanistic bowfin and John V with an equally rare albino. Bee caught
the all-black fin in Minnesota. It wasn't until after he released it that he realized he had caught a
once-in-a-lifetime fish. John landed his once-in-a-lifetime white fin in New Jersey.
As the water gets colder, the Bowfin develop these amazing reticulated patterns that look like a cross between those you see on a Tiger Musky and a chain pickerel. HenryV, NC, 12/12/07
|Sandra's Texas bowfin, a spawning male, is prettier than just about any other freshwater fish.
March 2010 - Bowfin Age and Growth Study!
I am a fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and I collected some data a couple years back on Bowfin in Virginia. The data is from a couple of rivers (Blackwater and Nottoway) in SE Va, and we saw some pretty interesting trends. Thought you might be interested.
Region 1 Fisheries Biologist
Va. Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
March 2010 - Bowfin Harvest and Age Studies!
Dr. Michael C. Quist, of Iowa State University's Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management sent these two studies which he co-authored. The first is a study of "Population dynamics and potential management of bowfin (Amia calva) in the upper Mississippi River". The study suggests that while overfishing is not currently a problem in the locations studied, if limits are imposed to prevent overfishing a 25" minimum is the target. This study also mentions the Bowfin Anglers' Group favorably!
The second, "Precision of Hard Structures Used to Estimate Age of Bowfin in the Upper Mississippi River" looks at various ways to determine the age of a bowfin because, "precise age and growth information is needed to better understand and manage bowfin populations."
Thank you Dr. Quist for furthering our knowledge of bowfin!
July 2009 - Bowfin As Oranges!
I am a fisheries biologist in Ohio who works for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and OSU's biological field station, F.T. Stone Laboratory. A member of the Ohio Game Fishing forums posted a link to your site. What a joy! I've taken a great many bowfin on rod and reel, but even more in fyke nets, some beasts approaching 2.5 feet.
There is one fascinating aspect of bowfin I didn't see referenced on your science page. Bowfin can synthesize ascorbic acid in their kidney. That's right, they can manufacture their own vitamin C! Wiley Interscience Abstract
The author, Konrad Dabrowski, is a professor here at OSU.
Eugene B, 07/04/09
April 2009 - Bowfin Aggression
I'm wading a heavily vegetated area of the swamp. Bugs were eating me alive. I see a fin stick his head up for air so I ease over that way. After about 10 minutess he came by me at a good pace. I lost track of him after that. Then, all of a sudden, he jumps up and bites my leg! Scared the heck out of me. I started yelling; I didn't know what just happened. I looked down and he's still there. He didn't just bite my waders and run off, he was trying to pick a fight!
I put my Senko in the water and he hit it instantly. He got away that time. A moment later I look and he's flanking me. He's looking straight at me with his mouth wide open and gills stuck out. I dropped my Senko on him again and this time I landed him.
Soon after I see a black mass moving through the water. It was a wad of baby bowfin. LOL, now I get it! I read the males protect the nest but never thought a 3.5 lbs fish would attack a 200lbs 6ft person!
I placed him back on the bed. I'll retire that spot for the year and hopefully next year I'll have a sweet bowfin honey hole. Joe and I found at least 4 nests with bowfin lurking by acting just like this guy. What an awesome fish!!
Here is a paper I didn't see on your Science page. The Minnesota DNR
had an interesting idea regarding use of bowfin to control stunted panfish,
but it didn't work as well as they hoped.
Dan O, 01/30/07
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Mississippi State University
Neal D. Mundahl, Christina Melnytschuk, Deena K. Spielman, Jason P. Harkins, Kate Funk, and Andrew M. Bilicki
Department of Biology, Winona State University Post Office Box 5838,
Winona, Minnesota 55987-5838, USA
Abstract.—Adult bowfins Amia calva were reintroduced (initial density approximately 32 fish/ha) into Lake Winona, Minnesota, from 1984 to 1986 to evaluate their effectiveness in controlling overabundant, stunted bluegills Lepomis macrochirus and other sunfishes (centrarchids) in a system with extensive macrophyte beds. Bowfin catch rates (trap nets, gill nets and electrofishing) declined rapidly after reintroductions ended in 1986. Catch rates and growth rates of bluegill and black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus have not changed since bowfin reintroduction. In 1992, only adult bowfins (average age, 10 years; average weight, 2.4 kg) were captured in Lake Winona, and they were concentrated in or near dense macrophyte beds. The final population estimate for bowfin in the west basin was 114 fish (3.17 fish/ha). Captive bowfins exhibited no size selection when feeding on sunfish and consumed on average less than 5 sunfish/24 h. Bowfin consumption rates declined by 80% when the density of artificial vegetation exceeded 500 stems/m2. Bowfins preferred both fathead minnows Pimephales promelas and virile crayfish Oronectes virilis over sunfish in prey choice trials. Lack of natural reproduction by bowfins in Lake Winona, their rapid decline in numbers after stocking, and their low rate of sunfish consumption may explain why bowfins apparently have been ineffective in controlling the lake’s bluegill population.
© 2007 American Fisheries Society
My son and I were out fishing in a pond and he said he saw a
big fish swimming close to shore so I looked and saw it was a big
bowfin. After about 10 minutes passed it just rolled over and was
upside down, just motionless, but was breathing a little. It was in
about a foot of water so I cast to it with the #6 hook that was on my
line. It bit down on it once I put it up to his mouth. It was a big
dang fish. I guess it was dying but what an easy catch that was. I
threw him out to deeper water and that was that. It was about 20 inches
long and pretty heavy (no scale). It was bleeding a little and some of
its scales were a little white towards the back part. Thanks for any
thoughts on this!!
Interesting....Not sure what part of the country you're in,
but it's possible this may have been a post-spawn female. Although I
have never seen one actually go belly-up before, I have seen many
spawns before and they are a bit rough on the females at times. The
smaller males often bite down on the fins of the larger females to hold
them in position as they lay their eggs. Often the females will slip
out and the males will again bite down on the nearest fin/sometimes the
tail to keep the females in the nest. This will often cause bleeding
from the fins and tail and cause them to turn white after some time has
passed. When the spawn is complete, the females often leave the area
very slowly and erratically. Almost exactly as you described, until the
belly-up part that is. Perhaps it was just a post-spawn female, or just
a fin who's time had come. Not exactly sure, but interesting indeed.
Just a note: The US EPA just released a report
on mercury in fish, and Bowfin were head and shoulders above any other
fish. This is basically the exact work I've been doing in New York for
the last 2 years. The two things to look at are the technical
memorandum and the mean tissue mercury concentration graph.
Bowfin fossils in Maryland
This is in regards to the partial fossil Amiid found in the Saint
Mary's formation in Calvert county Maryland. Lance G looked over some
of the disarticulated remains on 9/3/04. He confirmed that it was an
Amiid but could not say what species at this moment. Unfortunately the
head region was the only portion of the skeleton recovered, hopefully
there is enough for positive identification. In either case, it looks
like this will make it to publication as first recorded fossil Amiid
from Maryland and the Miocene east coast (not including Florida ). I
will keep you updated as this comes about. Many thanks to you and to
Jeff C. for helping out with obtaining the modern bowfin material, it
has helped us in putting some of the pieces of the past back together.
Calvert Marine Museum
Hello, my name is William C. I work for the Paleontology Dept.
at the Calvert
Marine Museum in Calvert county Maryland.
Recently , I dicovered a partial fossil Amiid skeleton consisting of
about 70% of the head and one centra. This fish was found in brackish
to marine sediments that date to about 10 - 15 million years, Miocene
epoch, Saint Marys formation. As far as I know this is the only Miocene
Amiid known from the east coast. The only way for us to tell whether or
not this specimen is the same as the modern species would be to compare
it to a number of modern specimens. Unfortunately, our comparative
osteology dept. is weak. Because bowfins are not found in our area it
is difficult for us to obtain such specimens. I am looking for someone
who would be willing to donate about 12 whole, frozen bowfins for
study. Animals ranging from about the 10 to 24 inch range would be
required to look at morphologic changes through chronologic age. Being
a non-profit institution, our funds are very limited but we would be
able to cover the cost of shipping. If you know of someone who is
willing to help, it would be greatly appreciated.
On Jun 28 and 29, Jeff C did a great job for BAG. He took the
time to fulfill Bill's request. The fishing, as always, was the fun
part. Scrounging up coolers and dry ice, prepping and wrapping the
fish, and getting it all FedEx'd overnite was a chore. BAG donated the
funds for shipping. We thank you Jeff and William for helping to
promote understanding of our favorite sportfish. Check back for updates
on William's research.
Deformed fin still thrives
F caught this fin in Upstate NY. The lower jaw is only half-formed but
the fin was healthy. Says a lot for their predatory skills. 07/28/04
Troy (VT02) summarizes bowfin spawning info
I have researched Amia calva just like we discussed before. I went to www.fishbase.org
and found some valuable info. The information below is in my own words
as to not to copy their exact work. But you can have my work, it's for
Bowfin Eggs info,
Freshly layed eggs are colored a yellow,amber or orange. Eggs
are sticky and stick to dead and upright vegetation or rocks. As the
eggs get older they will darken or be different in colors with the
location. Some may be white to yellowish brown, charcoal gray to dark
Bowfin spawn at 6-19 degrees Celsius (43-66 F), with the optimum at 61-66 F. They spawn in
colonies in protected locations such as in weeds, tree roots and even
Main Ref:Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr.1991.(Ref.5723)
They rely on scent as well as their sight to find food. They
capture their food by gulping water. When the young leave the nest they
are in a tight group and guarded by the male.
Troy H 05/03/04
Shiners and Fins
Troy H found this article about Golden Shiners utilizing
active bowfin nests for spawning. I find it interesting that the
shiners don't become a light snack:
DavidG finds a fry cloud
tried my luck with the bowfin today. B@$$ were bedding
around practically every stump I came across. Unlike last time I saw
just one gar the whole time I was out there. I had a few bowfin cruise
by me, but never managed anything more than the taunting stare they
were giving me. Anyway as I practiced my sight fishing skills in the
shallows I suddenly fixed on a massive black cloud in the water. I
thought for sure it was bullheads; it looked completely identical to a
school of bullheads. As I paddled all the way up to them I noticed
somthing large swam away from them, then I noticed these bullheads
didn't have whiskers! I looked harder at the tiny black tadpole-like
figures in the massive cloud. I was noticing individual ones coming up
and gulping the surface - that gave it away. I scooped up handfuls,
millions of tiny bowfin fry. I didn't manage to get great pics, but I
got a few. I kept a couple for an aquarium, As I was leaving, I saw the
male slowly swimming around my boat but I wasn't about to try to catch
him. I just let him go about his way guiding the tiny bowfin along.
David G 04/07/04
Bowfin Stomach Contents Survey -- What do bowfin eat?
From Fisheries Grad Student Andrew P:
TITLE (ENGLISH): Food Habits of Bowfin in the Black and Lumber Rivers,
AUTHOR(S): Ashley,-K.W.; Rachels,-R.T.
CONFERENCE INFORMATION: 53. Conference of the Southeastern Association
Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Greensboro, NC (USA), 6-10 Nov 1999
SOURCE (BIBLIOGRAPHIC CITATION):
Eversole,-A.G.; Wong,-K.C.; Doerr,-P.; Woodward,-D.; Mazik,-P.;
Southeastern-Association-of-Fish-and-Wildlife-Agencies 1999 pp. 50-60.
LANGUAGE OF TEXT: English
ABSTRACT: We examined food habits of bowfin (Amia calva), in the Black
and Lumber rivers, North Carolina. Stomachs from 192 Black River bowfin
and 175 Lumber River bowfin were analyzed to determine frequency of
occurrence and percent by number and weight of individual food items
consumed from 1994 to 1997. Crustaceans [primarily crayfish (Astacidae)
and grass shrimp (Palaemonidae)] were the dominant food item consumed
by bowfin in both rivers. They occurred, on average, in 79% of Black
River bowfin stomachs containing food and accounted for 65% by number
and 53% by weight of all food items consumed. In the Lumber River
crayfish occurred, on average, in 71% of bowfin stomachs containing
food and accounted for 63% by number and 27% by weight of all food
items consumed. Fishes, primarily centrarchids and ictalurids, were of
secondary importance in the diet of bowfin. Other fish of minor
importance included American eel (Anguilla rostrata), bowfin, creek
chubsucker (Erimyzon oblongus), and pirate perch (Aphredoderus sayanus).
Scientific Articles on Amia calva
Bowfin are unique fish, and unfortunately are not often
studied. Our Science Advisor, Professor Hedrick, studied bowfin during
his graduate program; two of his papers are linked and summarized
below. This page will be dedicated to scientific data and research into
our beloved bowfin. The articles may have a lot of technical jargon,
but if getting smarter was easy.... For the non-scientists among us
(myself included), I suggest that you be patient, use a dictionary, and
you'll get the gist of it. Superscripts and subscripts don't display
well here, so jump to the original link for better readability as well
as greater detail.
The effects of altered aquatic and aerial respitory gas
concentrations on air-breathing patterns in a primitive fish (Amia
Michael S. Hendrick* and David R. Jones
The mechanisms and physiological control of air-breathing were
investigated in an extant halecomorph fish, the bowfin (Amia calva).
Air flow during aerial ventilation was recorded by pneumotachography in
undisturbed Amia calva at 20-24Â°C while aquatic and
aerial gas concentrations were independently varied. Separation of
aquatic and aerial gases was used in an attempt to determine whether
Amia calva monitor and respond to changes in the external medium per se
or to changes in dissolved gases within the body. Air flow measurements
revealed two different types of ventilatory patterns: type I airbreaths
were characterized by exhalation followed by inhalation; type II
air-breaths, which have not been described previously in Amia calva,
consisted of single inhalations with no expiratory phase. Expired
volume (Vexp) for type I breaths ranged from
11.6Â±1.1 to 26.7Â±2.9mlkg^-1
(95% confidence interval; N=6) under normoxic conditions and was
unaffected by changes in aquatic or aerial gases. Gas bladder volume
(VB), determined in vitro, was 80mlkg^-1; the percentage of gas
exchanged for type I breaths ranged from 14 to 33% of VB in normoxia.
Fish exposed to aquatic and aerial normoxia (PO2=19-21kPa), or aerial
hypercapnia (PCO2=4.9kPa) in normoxic water, used both breath types
with equal frequency. Aquatic or aerial hypoxia (PO2=6-7kPa)
significantly increased air-breathing frequency in four of eight fish
and the ventilatory pattern changed to predominantly type I air-breaths
(75-92% of total breaths). When fish were exposed to 100% O2 in the
aerial phase while aquatic normoxia or hypoxia was maintained,
air-breathing frequency either increased or did not change. Compared
with normoxic controls, however, type II breaths were used almost
exclusively (more than 98% of total breaths). Type I breaths appear to
be under feedback control from O2- s e n s i t i v e chemoreceptors
since they were stimulated by aquatic or aerial hypoxia and were nearly
abolished by aerial hyperoxia. These results also indicate that Amia
calva respond to changes in intravascular POÂ·;
however, externally facing chemoreceptors that stimulate air-breathing
in aquatic hypoxia cannot be discounted. Type II airbreaths, which
occurred in aerial hyperoxia, despite aquatic hypoxia, appear to be
stimulated by reductions of VB, suggesting that type II breaths are
controlled by volume-sensitive gas bladder stretch receptors. Type II
breaths are likely to have a buoyancy-regulating function.
Key words: air-breathing fish, bowfin, Amia calva, hypoxia,
type I breath, type II breath, expiratory volume, buoyancy.
Control of gill ventilation and air-breathing in the bowfin
Michael S. Hendrick,* and David R. Jones
The purpose of this study was to investigate the roles of
branchial and gas bladder reflex pathways in the control of gill
ventilation and air-breathing in the bowfin Amia calva. We have
previously determined that bowfin use two distinct air-breathing
mechanisms to ventilate the gas bladder: type I air breaths are
characterized by exhalation followed by inhalation, are stimulated by
aquatic or aerial hypoxia and appear to regulate O2 gas exchange; type
II air breaths are characterized by inhalation alone and possibly
regulate gas bladder volume and buoyancy. In the present study, we test
the hypotheses (1) that gill ventilation and type I air breaths are
controlled by O2-sensitive chemoreceptors located in the branchial
region, and (2) that type II air breaths are controlled by gas bladder
mechanosensitive stretch receptors. Hypothesis 1 was tested by
examining the effects of partial or complete branchial denervation of
cranial nerves IX and X to the gill arches on gill ventilation
frequency (fG) and the proportion of type I air breaths during normoxia
and hypoxia; hypothesis II was tested by gas bladder inflation and
deflation. Following complete bilateral branchial denervation, fG did
not differ from that of sham-operated control fish; in addition, fG was
not significantly affected by aquatic hypoxia in sham-operated or
denervated fish. In sham-operated fish, aquatic hypoxia significantly
increased overall air-breathing frequency (fAB) and the percentage of
type I breaths. In fish with complete IXX branchial denervation, fAB
was also significantly increased during aquatic hypoxia, but there were
equal percentages of type I and type II air breaths. Branchial
denervation did not affect the frequency of type I air breaths during
aquatic hypoxia. Gas bladder deflation via an indwelling catheter
resulted in type II breaths almost exclusively; furthermore, fAB was
significantly correlated with the volume removed from the gas bladder,
suggesting a volume-regulating function for type II air breaths. These
results indicate that chronic (34 weeks) branchial denervation does not
significantly affect fG or type I air-breathing responses to aquatic
hypoxia. Because type I air-breathing responses to aquatic hypoxia
persist after IXX cranial nerve denervation, O2-sensitive
chemoreceptors that regulate airbreathing may be carried in other
afferent pathways, such as the pseudobranch. Gas bladder deflation
reflexly stimulates type II breaths, suggesting that gas bladder
volume-sensitive stretch receptors control this particular
air-breathing mechanism. It is likely that type II air breaths function
to regulate buoyancy when gas bladder volume declines during the
Key words: hypoxia, air-breathing, gill ventilation, gas
bladder, buoyancy, stretch receptor, bowfin, Amia calva.
Air-breathing during activity in the fishes Amia calva and
C. G. Farmer and D. C. Jackson
An examination of central chemosensitivity in an
air-breathing fish (Amia calva)
By M. S. Hendrick, M. L. Burleson, D.R. Jones, and W. K. Milsom
J. exp. Biol. 155, 165-174 (1991)
The role of central chemosensitivity in the control of ventilation in
fishes was investigated directly by perfusing a mock extradural fluid
(EDF) through the cranial space in the medullary region of conscious
air-breathing fish, Amia calva. Perfusions with Sudan Black dye showed
that the mock EDF communicated with the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and
entered the cerebral ventricles. Altering the PO2, PCO2, and/or pH of
the mock EDF had no effect on gill- or air-breathing rates, heart rate
or blood pressure during exposure to normoxic water. Aquatic hypoxia,
however, stimulated gill ventilation and elevated blood pressure, but
did not affect heart rate; altering the gas tensions and/or pH of mock
EDF still had no effect on recorded variables. Sodium cyanide (NaCN)
added to the mock EDF caused struggling at concentrations above 500
Âµg/ml, but did not uniformly stimulate
ventilation. These results suggest that central chemoreceptors, which
mediate cardiovascular or ventilatory reflexes, are absent in Amia.
Periodic air-breathing behavior in a primitive fish revealed
by spectral analysis
Michael S. Hendrick, Stephen L. Katz and David R. Jones