Try harder, Tennessee! Send those pics!

The Yellow dots indicate the State Record (lb-oz or 00.00 lb), the Red dots are other fin locations that have been revealed to us. They link to Topozone maps that get you in the neighborhood, if not to the exact spot. The Photos name the location the fins were caught (if known). Thanks to Dave D (Osama Bin Bowfin) for this idea.

July 2010, Kentucky Lake

The Bowfin in the photo was caught Memorial Day, May 31, 2010 on an unusually cool morning for the time of year. Equipment was reel and rod, 12 lb test mono line while Bass fishing using a Zoom June Bug Lizard. The fish fought very hard. The first sight of the fish had me thinking I had hooked a record Bass. I assume this Bowfin was a female as there was no dot marking on its tail. I being an 83 year old dummy failed to weigh or measure this fish. It is estimated to be yard stick long and very heavy as I required some help holding it. My buddy helping is six feet tall and will give you some idea of the length. It was propmtly released. It was caught in Kentucky Lake in North West Tennessee.
Bob M, 07/12/10

May 2010, Pond Creek

Just caught my first Bowfin over the weekend. It was on a little offshoot of the Cumberland River in Ashland City, TN called (oddly enough) Pond Creek. This was a low, murky, area with alot of stumps and growth and debris. I had set a catfish rig,with a shrimp for bait, and was spinning for Bass, when the catfish pole went nuts. Long story short, it was my first Bowfin. I measured him at 17 inches and weighed him at 2 lbs. I seen other like him churning around in the low water, but had not caught one yet so I did not know what it was.
Jim N, 05/25/10

April 2010, Reelfoot Lake

My friend and I spent all last week fishing for Crappie in Lake Reelfoot. When we realized that wasn't going so good we started after Bowfin. All ranged from about 3-5 lbs. It was nothing but amazing. Boy, do they put up a good fight on light rods! It seems all these fish were caught post spawn mostly because of how beat up they were (three of them were missing parts of their tails). We easily caught 30+ bowfin in this one spot.
Matt H, 04/26/10

April 2010, Cross Creeks WMA

I got this female on shad and missed the TN state record by 2-1/2 pounds. The bowfin was 33 inches long and 12 1/2 pounds. I caught it in Cross Creeks WMA just outside Cumberland City, TN.
Dennis A, 04/03/10

September 2009, Little Limestone Creek

When I caught this thing, I'm wondering what the @#$$??? I caught a little of everything across the South and Southwest but never a bowfin. What an odd looking creature. Well this one came out of Little Limestone Creek in the very SW corner of Lincoln County, TN. Little Limestone begins at the convergance of Sherril and Johnson Branch. Here are the latt/lon: N34.99487° W86.81317° This creek dries up some Summers except for a few, long puddles. I just thought I'd see what was in the creek the day before Labor Day. Actual weight and length is unknown but well over a foot long.
Eric J, 09/08/09

August 2009, Tuscumbia R

Bear caught this one on cut bream. With a new rod and a little heavier leader we've been having much better luck with the bigger ones.
John "Ravenmadd" W, 08/10/09

August 2009, Tuscumbia R

Raven and Bear in W TN. Wearin' 'em out - 12 lb. 3 oz. 30 in.
John "Ravenmadd" W, 08/05/09

July 2009, Loc'n Unknown

Raven and Bear here in west TN. I told you last week about hanging a whopper. Well, this is what it did to Bear's Rhino rod! But have no fear; we are re-rigged and going back this weekend for an all nighter! Got to be the most fun I've had fishing in years.
John "Ravenmadd" W, 07/24/09

July 2009, Loc'n Unknown

Raven and Bear here in west TN still trying to beat the state record. Had him online but he shook my hook lose. We actually retrived another anglers hook from the one's gut. 4\0 circle. 1 tough fish!
John "Ravenmadd" W, 07/20/09

June 2009, Reelfoot Lake

I caught this fin this past Friday ( June 5th 09) in Tennessee, on Reelfoot Lake. I caught it on chicken livers fishing for channel cats. According to my digital scale it weighed 11 lbs. 2 oz. What a strong fish! It actually bent one of the hooks on a treble hook! I've caught quite a few fins out of Reelfoot ... but this is my biggest ! What a fighter !
Gene W, Arnold G Man, 06/09/09

April 2009, Reelfoot Lake

I caught my first bowfin! Pretty exciting since I was fishing for crappie at Reelfoot Lake.

Bob R, 04/02/09

June 2008, Sycamore Lake

I have a pic of a bowfin I caught in a Tennessee Lake near my house. I didn't know what it was. I've been looking on the Internet, and at first I though it was a snakehead, but then I ran across your site and saw it was a bowfin. It was 28 inches long and about 9lbs, the biggest of the two I caught.

Joe C, 06/23/08

May 2008, Old Hickory Dam (Cumberland R)

I went catfishing and caught a dogfish. He decided to take my cut shad bait on a circle hook below Old Hickory Dam/Lock (south side) on the Cumberland River, Nashville Tennessee (Cheatam Lake) 5-12-08. The water was very low. He or she was about 23" long. I let him go, hope to get another some day.

Catfish Dan, 05/19/08

November 2007, Reelfoot Lake

I just returned from a 3 day fishing trip to Reelfoot Lake , TN. I have been going to Reelfoot 2 or 3 times a year for about 15 years and we occasionally catch a bowfin or two, but this last trip - WOW ! Over three days Oct 31 - Nov 1- Nov 2, there were 3 of us fishing for crappie with minnows and light tackle. We landed about 15 bowfin and probably lost at least that many. We had lines snapped, hooks straightened, etc.... We caught them early in the day, all through the day, and at night while fishing for catfish. I have always thought them to be junk fish and always threw them back immediately. I decided to do some reading on them today and have a new found respect for them. Your web site is really interesting and informing!

It sounds like we passed up the chance for a great fish fry by not keeping a few of them for the dinner table. Most of the ones we caught were between 5 and 10 pounds. The next time I catch one I think I'll try some of the fillets fried, like I would a catfish or crappie.

We caught most of the fins in shallow channels, in 2 -3 ft of water. Small shad were very active and we were fishing with minnows, so it seems that they were feeding on the shad and our minnows. I have a new found respect for them. On a 5 ft spinning rod, what a fight! Have you ever fished Reelfoot? A lot of shallow water and cypress trees!

I think you may like Reelfoot. I love it there because it is not commercialized and not a tourist haven. It is a Sportsman's Lake. Down there they fish and duck hunt. It is a very, very, shallow lake, very stumpy, no pleasure boaters, skiers, etc... I think you should try it sometime. Pretty reasonable too; 3 days non-resident fishing permit is $27.00. Non Resident year permit is only $59.00. When I go to Reelfoot, I have been staying at the same place for several years. 3 nights lodging/3 day boat and motor use/bait for $149.00! Plus, the owner provides breakfast each morning. If you are a web browser look up Blue Basin Cove Bed and Breakfast. I live south of St. Louis, Mo. and for me it is only about a 3 1/2 hour drive. I go down there 3 or 4 times a year.
Gene W, 11/05/07

October 2007, Reelfoot Lake

I made a trek to Reelfoot Lake in western TN with brother-in-law Steve B. The lake was very low and, as the saying goes, the fishing was good although the catching was poor. We were fishing with poles and line (no reels) from a dock when the bowfin (Missourians generally call 'em grinnel cats) decided to swarm the area. (Do they travel in schools?) We landed 2 before the fins finished tearing up all four of our rigs. We tried rods and reels and had a bit more luck (heavier line helped, too). I'll send a photo or two if I can figure out how to do it.
The fins are hard to figure out. Some of the fish we got on took the bait and swam away slowly, hardly pulling the bobber under, then went wild and fought long and hard (unless they broke the line right off) and others slammed the bait (crappie minnows) like they hated it. Several completely cleared the water on a jump or two. All of them surfaced and threw impressive amounts of water. One of the beasts struck so hard it broke the bale off my spinning reel!
Question: how does one find the species? I've run into the demons (a term I use in awe, not derision) from time to time over the years but I have never found any when looking for them.
Second, aren't you guys in the photos even a little worried about a bowfin lacerating a finger or two when you grab around on them?
I must say that I think it's a sad thing that the bowfin is held in such low esteem. They grow to startling size, take lures or bait, fight like furies complete with savage runs and jumps to match just about any species and then get called @#$% old grinnel or bowfin. Bowfinning is not for the faint of heart!
The first photo is of Steve B, my brother-in-law, in camo rain gear. The fins are bigger than they might seem: Steve B is 8 feet 9 inches tall so the fish look smaller. The others are of yours truly with a couple of fins. To be sure you can distinguish the creatures in the picture, I will tell you that I'm the one wearing glasses.
Steve G, 10/25/07

We generally find fins loosely schooled, not tight like baitfish but like individual hunters working the same area. First places to try are the places they've been caught before. Sure, we'll bleed from time to time, but flesh heals. The key to handling fins is a firm grip, even if you think they are "calm". A tentative grip will get you bloody in a hurry. Welcome aboard - we share your sentiments!

P.S. A recollection: I went fishing with a chum the day after we graduated in early June, 1965 (didn't realize that I'm old, ugly and miserable, did ja? It's good that you know so you won't be shocked when you see the photos.) by Old Monroe, Missouri on the Quivre River (pronounced "Quiver River"). We got into the bowfins and really had a ball. One of those suckers actually pulled our boat around a good deal...I'm not saying fast but it definitely pulled the boat quite a distance.
Anyway, I had a middlin' sized one in a stringer and asked a local what it was and if it was good to eat. He identified the fish and gave the following advice. "Wellsir, hang that there grinnell up and take you a good sharp knife and cut all the way around its head. Bleed him like you would a pig. Then pull the hide off with a pair of pliers (pronounced "plars") and haggle off as much meat as you can. Soak her overnight in some salt-water in a ice-box. Then fry her up like any other fish. It yer real fish hungry, it won't be too bad but be sure to to eat it while it's hot. If she gets cold it'll go back to bein' raw."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, eh?
I let the fish go. I think it spit on my friend's foot as it was heading toward the water.
BTW, the attitudes linger: While I was playing one of the honkers at Reelfoot a week or so ago, a nearby bass fisherman opined that "You've either got you a dandy of a bass there ... or else one of them derned ol' grinnells."
Steve G, 10/26/07

August 2007, Loc'n unknown

This is the bigest of three of the first bowfin I ever caught. It's 37-1/2 inches long, and my cheap scale said it was 12-1/2 pounds. The others were 7 and 9 lbs. I also caught the bigest gar I have ever landed. It was 15-3/4 lbs. I caught them on cut bluegill, Eagleclaw hooks. on 15 lb test Stren line. There is Jackie with the nine pounder. I have now found a new fish to chase. I love the fight they give better then anything I have caught before. My girlfriend and I have timed it - when the hook hits the water until they bite is always 45 min. I was just wondering if they're all like that or just the spot we go. I went to my spot yesterday and hooked in to one that when he jumped he made all the fish I have ever caught look tiny. I got him to the bank and of course, Snap! there he goes! I hope to hook him again.

Jason G, 08/06/07

May 2007, Kentucky Lake (Danville)

While fishing for Largemouth B@$$ out of Kentucky Lake (Danville) in Tennessee, I hooked this Bowfin using a Blade Dancer just under the surface in about 3 to 4 feet of water. I was reeling very slowly and letting it flutter back down about 6 to 10 inches and reeling again. It was just enough to keep the bait moving, when WHAM!!!! my drag started singing! After about a 10 minute fight and two strong hook sets into the fish's mouth, she was netted. And as soon as I gave her slack line the hook fell out! Very boney mouth. She weighted in at 9LBS, 29 1/2 inches with a 14 inch girth. Great fight! She filleted out nicely and tasted great. Cane Creek is the bay I caught my fin in.

Brian "Snakeman" S, 05/03/07

Congrats Brian for submitting Tennessee's first fin! Keep 'em coming.

May 2006 - State Record?

If you were digesting your 2006 Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Record Book you may have jumped out of your skin when you saw the 21 pound 12 ounce bowfin caught in 1997 as the State Record. A new/old World Record? A controversy to shake the fishing world like the Spray muskie or Hayes smallie??? What happened to the 15-7 caught in 1983?
An interesting whoops, the 21-12 is the Tennessee bowfin record for bowfishing, not hook and line. The 15-7 still stands as the State hook and line record, but it sure is good to know there are bigger fins out there. Get busy, catch them, and wipe that smug grin of South Carolina's face!!

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