NJ Bowfin……. The “Jurassic” NJ River Monster, was the latest target in my quest for NJ outdoor adventures. Yes indeed, I did say the Jurassic River Monster and here is why; The Bowfin is a primitive type of fish and the sole representative of an ancient fish family that dates back to the Mezozoic Era, Jurassic Period – more than 180,000,000 years ago!
Just imagine dodging T-Rex while you`re out and about trying to catch your Bowfin supper many many moons ago!
I got the idea to chase Bowfin over a year ago and posted a question on a fishing thread, asking if anyone knew of a place to go after Snakeheads and Bowfin in New Jersey. This Lady wrote saying she knew of me from watching my You Tube Fishing Videos and that she knew where there were Snakeheads and Bowfins. So we chatted back and forth a bit and she shared some very impressive pictures of the Bass that she had been catching lately. Let me tell you something, she is quite the expert Bass-Fishin`-Fisher-Lady!
I loaded up my gear and made my way down into South Jersey and met up with her. She graciously showed me around to the couple of spots where she had seen the Snakeheads. This was more of an exploring expedition. I needed to learn my way around this new area a bit and in doing so, this was definitely burning up my daylight, as I would only have a few hours to have a go at it in my `Yak.
Definitely a different type of terrain than I had ever fished.
There were creeks seemingly
everywhere, that had an abundance of lily pads and plenty of excellent cover for those Bowfin and Snakeheads.
Only had one smaller Bass strike a Booyah Pad Crasher Frog that I was throwing in the lily pads that day.
Fished for about three hours then headed back up north. I was very excited about fishing these “new” waters and was on vacation all week, so I decided to get up at dawn the next morning, and run back down there to have a go at it all day. But I decided to really concentrate on just Bowfin and went and caught some live sunnies at daybreak, then headed south that next day.
I brought my heavy poles that I use for catfishing on the Delaware River that next day, figuring I would live-line the sunnies that I had caught that morning for bait.
I sat up all three poles with steel leaders as everything I had read indicated that these primitive fish had teeth as sharp as a Pike`s.
I fished for about two hours without a strike………. Then BAM! A wicked strike! I grabbed the pole as I watched the line spin off wildly from the reel. It ran up and down river unlike anything I had ever seen. Then the line went limp, as the fished swam towards me, then it stopped. Then like a rocket on a launch pad, it shot out viciously and I set the hook! Fish on! As I reeled that fish closer to the spot where I was standing, the fish flashed sideways in the murky creek water…..and revealed itself……. A Bowfin!! And just as I saw it flash, it thrashed it`s head and threw my hook. I quickly re-baited and got the line back in. Not long after I sat the ple down, another hit on a different pole! Again, took off wildly and I yanked back attempting to set the hook. Nothing. A miss. As I reeled in the pole to check my bait, this is what I saw;
A Bowfin dined on my sunny, biting it in half!
An hour later, the first line ran wildly up river…….. I let the fish really take it good, then set the hook very hard! Fish on again!
I managed to wrangle up this nice `Fin! What an excellent fight too! Notice the `Fin`s battle-wounds….. the tail is bitten off! Remember the diagram above? On the male Bowfin the tail fin is rounded and has a “black spot” on the upper base of the tail. This “black spot” resembles an eye that predators will mistakenly attack, allowing the bowfin to get away. On this `Fin the tail had looked like it had been literally just recently been bitten in half.
As you can see, the `Fin certainly had some extra battle-wounds. See the small puncture wounds in it`s side? This was definitely a fighter!
Quite the adventure. The day I`ll always remember down in South Jersey when I caught my NJ
River Monster……… The Bowfin!
Till next time….