The NJ Bowfin is a really exciting, tough-to-catch, native species that dates back to the Mezozoic Era, Jurassic Period(hence why I call them the Jurassic River Monsters), 250,000,000 years ago.(Yep…. that`s 250 million years ago!) –
I planned a day to head back down to South Jersey to have a go at those Snakeheads and Bowfin with
my buddy “Bowfin” Bob. Figured I`d explore in the morning and try some new territory for those Snakeheads, then the plan was to meet up with Bob around 5pm. As I loaded up the `Yak and my gear, I told Sharon, “Not sure what time I`ll roll back in, so don`t wait up!” Her, “Just please text me so I know you`re alive?”……….ha! ha!~ Jumped in the Murano and started my two and a half hour journey into South Jersey.
As I was driving down, I was still undecided as to where I wanted to start chasing the Snakeheads at. Bob was telling me to head back out where I landed my first Snakehead two weeks before, but my other friend
Kevin, who catches tons of Snakeheads, actually mentioned the place I had in mind during a conversation on Facebook. So I decided on the latter.
I arrived at my destination around 10:30am parked, got out with my coffee in hand to scope out the water at the small launch area. Definitely looked like “Snakehead Country” to me I thought to myself, as I started setting up one pole with a KVD Top-water Frog and the other with a Ribbit-Paddle Frog. Within fifteen minute I was making my way to the first tunnel Kev had mentioned to go through. As I sat in the opening, two other fishermen were paddling their `Yaks towards me. So just being courteous, I waited for them to make their way through first. As they got closer, the one guy shockingly yells………”Holy shit! it`s Ken Beam!”…….. ha! ha! He goes, ” I know that hat anywhere” and proceeds to tell his buddy, “This guy fishes all over the place!” – We all introduce one another and I asked where they were from, he said, “Philadelphia” – He said, “Man…you come a long ways to come down here don`t ya Ken? Me: “Yep….. and I`m here for Snakeheads and Bowfins boys” Him: “Well you`re in a great spot!” – With that we said our goodbyes and we were all on our way.
I fished the area very hard over the next few hours, alternating poles/lures without a single strike. Then I paddled up to the other side of the lake and started working the edges of this section of lily pads. Wasn`t there five minutes and BAM! Bass on! Landed a nice Bucket-Mouth on the KVD Frog. And the action didn`t stop there.As I got into four more Bass over the next hour, landing two more out of the four. Two I flipped right at the Yak trying to turn the Go PRO on! This was a decent one that whacked my top-water Frog –
As the day rolled on, I decided to keep fishing where I was rather than jump to another spot. I worked the entire lake the rest of the afternoon in the blazing heat without a Snakehead to be found. By 5pm I decided to load up the `Yak and meet up with my friend “Bowfin” Bob. We had made these plans during the week to meet at a particular destination and from there, we were heading about another twenty five miles south to the secret Bowfin spot. We chatted before we left and I decided not to Go PRO any of this being respectful to Bob for taking me there. So enjoy my Adventure, just don`t ask where we were…….. you won`t get an answer.
We arrived at the spot around 6pm and as I got out of the Murano, Bob said, “Just bring one pole, your frogs, net and grips” – Me: “Frogs?? We`re goin` after `em with top-water lures?” – Bob: “Yes Sir!” – Now I was extremely curious! Up to this point, I had only caught two Bowfins last year and both were on bait. Never imagined they could be caught on top-water. But that was about to change in the next few hours.
I eagerly began working my frog across the green muck and Bob said, “Watch that frog right till it`s even two inches from shore” – On the third cast a giant swirl arose in the thick green muck near my frog. As I worked the frog in closer, the water exploded from an enormous blow-up! The Bowfin missed the frog. Or I missed the Bowfin! These can be very tough to actually set a hook in sometimes. No…..let me re-phrase that, A LOT OF Times! They have a very boney head and mouth. A mouthful with a vicious set of teeth that would easily do a number of your fingers if given the chance. A few more casts and BAM fish on! Nope……. fish off. The action in this magical Bowfin spot was nothing short of amazing as they constantly stirred in the muck as I worked my lure across it. This powerful, voracious predator fish that prowls shallow weed beds will definitely give you a fight to remember! Another interesting note about this primitive fish is the fact that it retains a lung-like gas bladder and can actually gulp and breathe air. It`s said that the Bowfin is able to live out of water up to 24 hours. This trait allows the Bowfin to survive buried in the mud during drought conditions.
Bob landed the first Bowfin of the evening in just a few
Then I got into a `Fin also shortly thereafter.
We wrangled up several more down in that swamp and made our way back to the vehicles just before dark, to go to the other night time Bowfin spot. Here we would be fishing bait for the Bowfin. Bob`s buddy Shawn met us at the spot and had our bait for the night. We would be serving Spanish Mackerel and Bunker to the Bowfin in the dark.
Bob told me that, “Anything that you think you know about night fishing, throw out, `cause this will be a totally different kind of fish unlike any you have ever fished for in the dark” – And boy was he ever right.
After showing me how they rig the poles, Bob showed me what they use in regards to a lighted bobber. A simple foam bobber from Walmart, with a slight hole that is stuffed with a little Glow-Stick. A pretty damn ingenious idea indeed!
I cast my hefty chunk of Mackerel into the murky tributary and it wasn`t out there ten minute and my bobber was gone! Bob and Shawn both explained how the Bowfin are different at night in regards to running with bait. They said many times the Bowfin will actually swim right back towards you and you`ll hardly feel anything as the line goes slack. And that`s exactly what was happening with this `Fin. I reeled up and finally he took off and I set the hook! Landed him and quickly got him off and re-baited. In the meantime, Bob also set the hook on one! I grabbed the night as this was a pretty darn nice one!
As the night rolled along, we caught a nice amount of Bowfins, had a lot of laughs and bonded the way fisherman do. I called it a night at 1:30am as I had a two and a hlf hour ride back north. I couldn`t thank Bob and Shawn enough for their gracious hospitality. Especially Bob, for inviting me back down to have a go at those Bowfins in a secret spot.
Good fishin` with good Friends. Doesn`t get any better.