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One of the main advantages of fishing from a kayak is the ability to access water that larger boats or bank anglers cannot reach. These backwaters can be prime areas for fish that do not receive the same pressure as their kin in more public friendly areas. Some of my largest bass have come from these areas as well as one of the more interesting catches out there.


In the sloughs and backwaters lives a fish who’s ancestors predates the Tyrannosaurus rex. This fish goes by many different names such as grinnel, griddle, cypress trout, cypress bass, scaly cat, mud pike, and mudfish. It’s given name however is Bowfin or Amia calva for you scientific minded folks out there.

The bowfin truly earns the title of “living fossil” as they are the only living species from the order Amiiformes. This order of fish dates back to sometime around the Jurassic Period, 201 to 145 million years ago. Fossil records have shown that the Amiiformes once ranged from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia in both fresh and marine environments. Now the bowfin is only found in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.

One thing is for sure, bowfin are strong fighters. The battle can consist of long runs and violent spinning similar to a crocodile’s “death roll”. Bowfin will strike a variety of lures; I have caught them on anything from jigs to top water frogs. And even though bowfin are associated with murky swamps, I have encountered them in springs that were gin clear.

Many people regard the bowfin as a trash fish and a threat to the game fish population. However, the bowfin have evolved to fill a niche in the ecosystem in their native range. So if you ever come across one of these living fossils on your fishing trip, just take a second to appreciate the evolution that has brought this fish from the time of the dinosaurs until now. And be sure to have a pair of fish grips as they have a nasty little set of teeth.

Tight lines,
Robert Brown