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Florida Fish Species

Alligator Gar
American Eel
American Shad
Atlantic Croaker
Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
Black Bullhead
Black Crappie
Black Drum
Blue Catfish
Blue Tilapia
Brown Bullhead
Brown Hoplo
Chain Pickerel
Channel Catfish
Clown Knifefish
Common Carp
Flathead Catfish
Florida Gar
Gizzard Shad
Golden Shiner
Grass Carp
Green Sunfish
Hybrid Striped Bass(wiper/palmetto)
Inland Silverside
Lake Chubsucker
Largemouth Bass
Longnose Gar
Longnose Sucker
Mayan Cichlid
Mozambique Tilapia
Peacock Bass
Red Drum
Redbreast Sunfish
Redear Sunfish
Redfin Pickerel
Redspotted Sunfish
Shoal Bass
Spotted Bass
Spotted Sunfish
Spotted Tilapia
Striped Bass
Striped Mullet
Suckermouth Catfish
Sunfish (Bream)
Suwannee Bass
Threadfin Shad
White Bass
White Catfish
Yellow Bullhead

Lakes with Bowfin on FishExplorer
Rivers with Bowfin on FishExplorer
Bowfins, an ancient fish, are found throughout eastern North America, generally in slow-moving backwaters, canals and ox-bow lakes throughout the Eastern US, the Mississippi river and its tributaries, and in the south as far west as Texas.  They have the ability to gulp air into its blood lined swim bladder, which can serve as a lung. Tolerate of silt and mud, Bowfin survive in warm, stagnant water by breathing air.
One distinctive characteristic of the bowfin is its very long dorsal fin consisting running mid-back to the base of the tail. Another noticeable feature is the black "eye spot.” Bowfin have a bony plate on the exterior of the lower jaw referred to as a gular plate. Body color runs from mottled olive green or light brown topside, fading to a light green on the side and white underneath. Their large mouths possess sharp, canine teeth. Bowfins reach lengths of 24 inches.
Bowfins spawn in the spring in nests the male builds by biting off vegetation in two feet areas.  After the female lays her eggs, the males vigorously defends the nest. When the eggs hatch, young bowfins cling to the bottom, and then as they age they follow the male for a few weeks.
Young bowfins dine on phytoplankton, zooplankton, and insects. Adults are voracious fish eaters, but they are known to eat crayfish, small rodents, snakes, turtles, and leeches.  Bowfins are generally unappreciated by anglers and typically regarded as trash fish.  While they will occasionally take lures, they are most often caught with live or cut fishes. These should be handled with care due to their sharp teeth and attempts at biting anyone handling them.

Bowfin in Florida

Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Appearance:  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.
Habitat: Prefers swamps, or backwaters of lowland streams. They live in warm, poorly oxygenated waters.
Behavior: 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 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.
Most Recent Bowfin Forum Posts
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Recent Florida Bowfin Photos by Fish Explorer Members
by JJCat - 4 pound 4 ounce Bowfin, just under 20 inches long.  Caught in the connecting Lake Rowell mid-afternoon. by Dougwa - What a fighter..  Pulled him out of the stick-ups... by GatorGrip - Massive Mudfish caught on a small little known in North Florida by floating a small sunfish. Hit like a freight train and fought all the way to the bank. No weight or measurement was possible at the time but not too far off from the state record…As 99% of my angling it was a catch and release to fight another day. by Fishing Bob - by Fishing Bob - by BASSADDICT - Be sure to bring extra spinnerbaits!  These bowfin are destructive!