Amia Calva



Lake, River

12 - 21 pounds

20" - 43"


Also Known As: Choupique, Bonnetmouth, Cypress Trout, Marshfish, Beaverfish, Dogfish  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Bowfin (Amia Calva) Fish Description

Bowfin fishes are bony fish and are commonly considered “trash fish” by recreational anglers. Possibly, this may be due to the number of bones in the fish which may make it annoying to eat. After all, nobody wants to spend 40 minutes deboning a bowfin fish only to get a teaspoon of meat.

The bowfin has a smooth head that doesn’t have any scales hence its Latin name calva, meaning “smooth.” The bowfin’s large mouth is equipped with several rows of teeth to devour other game fish or freshwater crayfish. Along their back, Bowfins have a long dorsal fin and contains approximately 45 rays. None of its fins have spines. Their tails are short and rounded, similarly to a Plakat Betta (or a Fighting Fish known for its rounded tail), with its backbone extending into it. It has olive-green spots and smears covering its body while having a lighter green underbelly. The Bowfin is also known for its dark green dorsal fin whereas the rest of its fins are light green.

It also has a large gular plate which is unique to fish living within its habitat. For males, it also has a yellowish ring spot near its tail.


Bowfin Diet and Size

The Bowfin eat freshwater crayfish, speckled perches, and catfish. They are also known to feast on a lot of the game fish which is why anglers also find it annoying to be in a habitat full of them.

Bowfin female fish can reach up to 30 inches (75 cm) and weigh up to 8.5 pounds (3.8 kg). Males on the other hand can grow up to 18-24 inches. However, the biggest bowfin ever caught is measured at 34.3 inches in length and weighed at 21 lbs. 

Interesting Facts about the Bowfin

  • The Bowfins are considered primitive in nature because of some of their aesthetics belonging to older fish.
  • Bowfins can breathe both air and water, giving them an advantage in low oxygen waters.
  • Unlike other fish, Bowfin fish are capable of storing oxygen in their blood.
  • Them being primitive and an older race gives them a higher resistance to toxins such as chromium, mercury, and arsenic. Because of this, many would recommend not eating the Bowfin.
  • Eating bowfin appears to be an acquired taste. Some say it rolls up into a ball of cotton and is only “palatably passable” while others claim it is the “best-smoked fish”.
  • These fish are known to have survived since the Jurassic Era.


Bowfin – Fishing Techniques: How to Fish for a Bowfin

Some anglers love a good fight and the Bowfin is one of those few fishes that do give a good fight. In fact, it’s notoriety for giving a good fight made a fishing sport named after it: bowfishing.

Bowfishes normally stay in places that have a lot of vegetation. So, choose places like wetlands and marshlands. Places that common gamefish can’t stay in. They’re also quite easy to catch if you have the right bait. Some people use bluefin and chop off the fins. Once the fins of the fish are off, they then hook it up and sink it into the habitat of the bowfin fish. According to some anglers, they go quite crazy over that as they are carnivorous in nature.

Bowfin are nocturnal fish; they prefer feeding at night. So, consider it one way to exhaust yourself if you have too much energy from the day. Go out, fight with a bowfin fish, and you can declare that you’ve fished up a fossil. These bowfin fish are still considered primitive and are said to have lived even during prehistoric times so, it still fits the saying that you somewhat fished out a dinosaur.

They are also quite aggressive and they will not hesitate to attack you. So, keep your flesh away from them unless you plan to brag to your friends that you got bitten by a prehistoric fish.


Bowfin Habitat 

Bowfins love lakes, seepage ponds, and brackish wetlands. They also swim into river cutoffs and floodplains. Bowfins also have the ability to survive in drained floodplains due to their ability to also breathe in air and store it in their blood. They also inhabit ditches, pits, and pools of slow streams. Provided of course, if there is a lot of vegetation where they can stay.