West Virginia

A myth! It was a myth there were no fins in WV! Keep those Bowfin pics coming!

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.

May 2008, Green Bottom WMA

I fish around the Green Bottom WMA (Wildlife Management Area) in Cabell County, it's a natural and manmade wetlands project spearheaded by the corp of engineers to replace wetlands destroyed while building the Robert Byrd locks and dam. They have several ponds and lakes, none more than 6 to 8 feet deep, strewn across 1200 acres of land. It also has a boat launch for the Ohio river, that is where I launch to go garfishing. The lakes are only stocked with whatever the river washes into them during the flood season. The lake I'm catching the bowfin at hasn't flooded in several years. There must be a pile of them in there, because I catch a lot of chewed up bluegill and crappie. Please feel free to use any of the content I submit. I always have my camera with me and my eyes and ears open, so if anything of interest should pass my away about bowfins I'll be sure to pass it along to you.
I used a frozen shad that I had left over from last season on a Ugly Stick with 14lb test, 4" steel leader, and a cork bobber. I casted it out and opened the bail as I proceeded to pan fish with my ultra lite. About 20 minutes later the bobber disappeared and the line was spooling of the reel like crazy. I grabbed the reel, flipped the bail, set the hook and the fight was on. Man, that was exciting...the fish weighed in at 4.7lbs and was exactly 24" long. I guess what I'm saying is thanks for all the info, and when the rivers up, I'll be finnin at the lake.
Dickie A, 05/20/08

December 2006, Ohio River

I found your site recently and love it. I attended USC in SC for my undergrad degree and caught bowfin while living there. I first caught them at Santee Cooper and I instantly liked em'! They are rugged fish, and great fighters. We would fish for them after getting done with work (I worked for the SCDNR from 96-97) until dark, most of the time I would catch bass to bowfin 1:1 on a black Mann's jelly worm fished on top weightless, great action.

Upon returning home and gaining employment with the WVDNR recently, I found they are common along the Ohio especially in areas flooded during the winter/spring. Once the water recedes people (such as Mr. Stender) target these fish using artificials and bait. Two weeks after the record catch another person sent us a photo wanting to know what it was they caught and released and it looked like another bowfin that would have eclipsed Mr. Stender's record fish, also from the Ohio around Green Bottom WMA.

MattS fishes for em' a lot in the summer after he gets off work early in the AM. I'm also including a pic of another big one caught by a guy at Green Bottom this summer also, quite the bowfin hotspot here. We also verified a state record longnose gar and a saugeye from our district this yr. t was a good yr for district 5 in WV!!

It was pretty funny the day Matt Stender caught the record bowfin. I told Ryan B (the photographer), his boss, and my boss that in the weekly fishing report, I had just written how the summer was a good time to target bowfin in the Ohio backwaters. They gave me some ribbin' about recommending fishin' for bowfin in my report, and what kind of a fish was a "bowfin", etc.- all in fun...

Like clockwork about 15 minutes later another employee called and told me he had a guy who wanted to come down and verify a possible state record bowfin caught at Green Bottom! I had a really good time bringing that to their attention after the call! Ryan helped me weigh it on the hatchery scales, etc. and take the photos for publicity work, etc.

I'll try to stay in touch, have a good one and I'll keep finnin'!!
Keep up the good work.
Jeff H, 12/01/06
Assistant District Fisheries Biologist
WVDNR, McClintic Wildlife Station, Pt. Pleasant, WV

August 2006, Mill Creek

Hi, my name is Joel M, 15, of Cottageville in Jackson County. I was reading up on that bowfin story and saw that it was rare to catch one so I figured I'd tell you my story. I was fishing the backwaters of Mill Creek behind my house and caught two bowfin in a three day time span. I was catfishing with nightcrawlers in small backwaters when I caught them. The first bowfin measured 23.5 inches and the second was 19 inches. I caught them in the second week of June but I didn't realize it was rare to catch one because when I looked it up on the WV DNR site said It was common to catch one when fishing in the area. Attatched should be a picture of the second one that was 19 inches. I also have pictures of the first 23.5 incher on 35 mm film.
Joel M, 08/14/06

August 2006, Elk River

I'm reposting this story from the Charleston Daily Mail with permission of the author, Jake Stump.

Roane teenager hooks strange creature from Elk River

Jake Stump, Daily Mail Staff

Darrell Wayne Welch, left, and his
dad, William, show the bowfin
the boy caught Friday.
Darrell is keeping the
fish in a tank.
Tuesday August 08, 2006

PROCIOUS -- It was a little after midnight when 14-year-old Darrell Wayne Welch set his fishing rod down to go get more bait from the house.

When he returned Friday night, his pole was 120 yards across the Elk River.

The boy jumped into his boat, paddled to the other side and retrieved the pole. Luckily enough for Darrell, the fish was still hooked as he struggled for 30 minutes to pull it back to shore.

Obviously, this fish that caused such a ruckus was no ordinary catch.

Anglers often catch walleye, muskie, bass, perch, catfish and carp from the Elk River in Procious, Clay County.

But it took three days before someone could identify this monster of a fish.

Darrell had caught a 25.75-inch, 5-pound, 2-ounce bowfin -- a primitive ray-finned fish.

Bowfins are like the dinosaurs of fish. The bowfin and the gar are two freshwater fishes that have remained unchanged throughout history, and their existence dates back to the prehistoric, dinosaur days.

Still, bowfins are such a rare catch in West Virginia that even Division of Natural Resources officials and other wildlife experts seemed puzzled trying to distinguish Darrell's fish.

"I kept opening its mouth, thinking it was a muskie," said the ninth-grader at Roane County High School. "But then I saw its back fin."

Bowfins are recognizable for the single, continuous dorsal fin that runs snakelike from the mid-body to the tail.

These fish aren't easy on the eyes; they usually carry around a large head with two tiny horns, or barbells, that propel from their nose.

The bowfin is also different from other fish because its swim bladder functions like a lung and allows it to gulp air when oxygen levels run low.

Darrell isn't the first angler to catch a bowfin in West Virginia. Matt Stender of Barboursville holds the current record for catching a 9-pound, 4-ounce bowfin from an Ohio River backwater in July.

In 1995, two men set records at the time for catching bowfins from a Berkeley County pond.

In and around Procious and Clay County, the bowfin has become the talk of the community.

No one in the area had spotted one before. Darrell's father, 67-year-old William Darrell Welch, hadn't even seen them after a lifetime of hitting numerous fishing holes throughout the state.

"Nobody can believe that kind of fish came out of the water," the elder Welch said. "People have fished up to 60 years here and have never seen that before."

The Welches, who live in Gandeeville, Roane County, visit their summer hangout home in Procious quite often to fish the adjacent Elk River.

The bowfin made such a splash that family and friends thought "Moby Dick" -- a legendary catfish lurking in the river that no one can catch -- had bit on Darrell's minnow. He'd been fishing for catfish, after all.

"It scared the bejeebies out of me," said Janet Peters, a friend of the Welches who was fishing with Darrell. "His pole shot out and splashed around in the water, and I dropped my pole and ran."

The boy is keeping the fish in a makeshift aquarium until he decides what to do with it. Someone even offered him $500 for the slimy devil.

The catch is probably the proudest of young Darrell's fishing life, but it's not the biggest. Just a few weeks ago, he caught a 51-pound catfish in the same river.

For as much as he casts his line, he'll probably surpass those feats again.

"I like feeling the fight of the fish," said Darrell, who normally releases his catches back into their environment. "I've never fished a day in my life where I've never caught one."

The youngster also enjoys hunting and riding four-wheelers. His family lives on 220 acres of land in Roane County and they keep nine ponds stocked with fish.

His father figures it's the best pastime a youth can have these days.

"You can just sit there and relax," said William Darrell Welch, a retired coal miner. "You don't think of nothing and can just drift off. Plus, if he's up here fishing, I know he's not running around with dopeheads down the road."

Contact writer Jake Stump at jakestump@dailymail.com

July 2006, Ohio River

News Release : July 13, 2006
New State Record Bowfin Caught
A state record bowfin was caught by Matt Stender of Barboursville, according to Frank Jezioro, Director of the Division of Natural Resources. Stender caught the 28.43-inch, 9-pound, 4-ounce fish from the backwater areas of the Ohio at Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area in Cabell County on July 5, 2006 using fresh shad for bait. Stender's catch establishes a new West Virginia record for weight. The previous weight record for bowfin was a 7.66-pound fish caught by Carl A. Jaegar, III from a pond in Berkeley County. The previous length record of 32.25 inches caught by Donald E. Newcomb, III still stands as the West Virginia bowfin length record.
The backwater areas of the Ohio at Green Bottom, major embayments, and major tributaries of the Ohio are all good spots to try for bowfin during the late spring and summer,. according to Jeff Hansbarger, Assistant District Fisheries Biologist.
Anglers who believe that they have caught a state record fish should check the record listing in the 2006 Fishing Regulations brochure. The brochure also outlines the procedure to follow for reporting their catch. This information is also available online at www.wvdnr.gov.

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