Conquest for a new species

Every year, I try to add at least one new-to-me species and this year is no exception. The difference is that it's almost the end of July and I am just now starting on my mission.

When my great friend Jason said that he had the whole day free to fish this past Saturday, I knew that I wanted to try and get that new species. Now the question was, what species? After some research, and browsing through a few of the local fishing forums, I noticed a report of a fish I have heard of but never targeted or caught. This fish is said to fight harder than any bass of comparable weight. It is also rumored to have a nasty disposition and mouth full of wicked teeth. So far, this sounds like a great target! As I continued to do some research, I learned that one of the best times to fish for them is when it's too hot for anything else to be biting. That settled it - I found the target! I then did some more research to find out where the best population of these fish existed.  I also contacted a guy that have I fished with a few times since I knew he managed to catch his first one last year. With all the intel on the species, location, and presentation, the day was planned!

Date: July 23, 2011
Target: Bowfin
Lures: Scumfrogs and Live Target frogs
Location: Desplaines River Conservation Area

I picked Jason up at 6am. We stopped for some coffee and snacks before getting on the road. It had rained overnight and there was rain in the forecast for the day. On top of that temperatures in the upper 80's to low 90's were to be expected. This meant that it was time to put some of my own advice into action for dealing with the heat. I think that we had about 5 gallons of water between the two of us, bug spray, and sun screen.

As we pulled up, we noticed a couple of people already out there. There were three small section in the area and I had a specific one in mind. To my relief, nobody was fishing that part. Since this particular area was nothing but thick algae and lily pads, and knowing that bowfin had mouths full of teeth, I got our rod and reel combos tied up with the Scumfrogs over the Live Targets ($3.50/ea vs $9.99/ea).  About 30 minutes into the day, I got the first frog explosion of the day. Unfortunately, the fish missed his mark. After another hour or so of pounding the same general area, I wandered a bit further down and noticed what seemed like a dream location - varying thicknesses of algae, lily pads with some well defined edges, fallen trees near shore, and midwater stumps.

Within the first 45 minutes or so in this new area, I had two more misses. On the second miss, I let the frog sit in place and twitched it for about 30 seconds. Sure enough, the fish came back! This time he didn't miss his target, I slammed the hook back, and the fight was on! After a good fight, I gained enough on the fish where he was just a foot from shore. I reached for the Boca Grips and as I bent down, I must of let some of the pressure off and he was gone. We did get a good look at him and this was definitely a bowfin - a big one!

This first encounter left me excited, disappointed, and looking for redemption! Knowing that we were in the right place, we cast on. We probably stayed in the same general area for another couple of hours before we decided to take a break, cool down, and grab some lunch. On the way to McDonalds, we noticed  another part of the same body of water with some open shore access. We decided to stop and cast a few times. Within the first few casts, we noticed some movement about 10 feet in front of our feet. We got our frogs in as quick as we could and did a few slow twitches. Sure enough, the fish went for it......and missed. This happened a couple more times before we stopped noticing movement. We decided to give that fish a break and continue on to lunch.

3lb Bowfin - First ever!
On the way back, we stopped back at the last spot and I decided that it was time to break out the Live Target. For whatever reason, they kept missing the Scumfrog, so I figured that was the change I needed. Sure enough, with a few casts, FISH ON! After an awesome fight, I decided to forgo the Boca Grips and just heave the fish out of the water. Once on land, I grabbed him with the grips, CAREFULLY removed the hook, took a few moments to snap a photo, admire this amazing prehistoric fish, and set him free.

I was PUMPED! One of the most satisfying feelings to an angler, at least this one, is when you set out to catch a fish that you have never targeted before and succeed in catching one.

After a congratulatory round of high fives, Jason and I headed back to the spot where we first started. Almost immediately, we went to the spot where I lost the first one and pounded it some more.  After a while, I was working the frog across a point of lily pads when I noticed the last lily pad on the point move. I stopped the frog where it laid, gave it a few twitches, and SPLASH! It was fish on again! I watched in amazement as this fish did a tail walk for about ten feet before heading back under the scum. After a good fight, a new first happened for me - I was disappointed to catch a bass. It was a good two pounder, but not what I was hoping for.

We cast for a while more and didn't have anything else happening. At this point, we were both hot, tired, sore, and ready to call it.

Final score - 2 bowfin hooked, 1 landed, 1 largemouth bass, and Jason learned how to cast a baitcaster (A very quick study he was!)

What a fantastic day!


  1. Congrats on the new species Nick. I've been trying to get one on a fly for a while. What's up next on the wish list?

  2. That's a good question, John! The honest answer is simply some fishing time. With our first baby just weeks away, I am going to be happy just getting out there. I am sure that something will spark my interest though!

  3. Good luck on the upcoming baby Nick! Keep us posted

  4. AWESOME! Man, well well well done! I loved the story leading up to the success. This was the best read I had this week. There is a lake in N Missouri that is purported to hold bowfin, this renews my interest in checking it out.


  5. Thanks, Will!! Get out there and go for them! Truly awesome. If that lake isn't choked with weeds, they LOVE spinner baits. If it is all weeds, then go frog or mouse. Also, Live bluegill under a float or even on the bottom with a sliding egg sinker is said to be a great way to catch them. I would cut the gill a few times for added scent.

  6. Nice! These guys are prevalent at my in-laws' new place in south Florida and my brother's new place on the NC/VA border. My brother has caught one already and says they are def. a worthy adversary. You got me pumped to get my first bowfin too!

  7. If you go in hunt of them, make sure it's a bowfin you catch and not a snake head! The snake head are doing quite well down there in FL. I also know the Potomac is full of them as well, so it's possible the water on the NC/VA border can have them as well. I hear they are an absolute blast to catch, but they need to be destroyed up catching (law)


Let's hear it!


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