The first time I ever caught a bowfin (Amia calva)I was shocked and amazed at this fish. It was green …. really green like beyond fresh water fish green …. with a fancy spot on the upper part of the back of its dorsal fin. And it had one impressive dorsal fin. It was whopping big and took a while to land.
When I caught that fish, I had a plastic worm lure with which I was trying to catch the mocking bass. The mocking bass is a specific individual large mouth bass or, as Julia called them back in those days, “big mouth bass.” The mocking bass hangs on a sandy spot that looked like a nest (but it would do this all year, so it was usually not actually nesting) and watch me fish. Any lures that go his way are be ignored or avoided, though occasionally sniffed at, but never taken.
By the way, a quaint belief among the Minnesotans is that the bass that holds on the nest during spawning is the lady bass. But in fact, the gentleman bass makes the nest and raises the young. If a lady bass will give him egg, as it were. But I digress.
So, this was three years ago or so and I was trying to catch the mocking bass, and passed this worm across his nest. I was watching the way the worm acted during the retrieve, having passed the mocking bass’s nest (which in this case was way across the lagoon as I was approaching him form a distance on that day) and as I was watching the way the lure presented when sitting still, in foot deep water four feet from my very own feet, I noticed that I was not alone. A fish was also watching the lure up close. A whopping big prehistoric-looking green fish. Really really green.
So as the lure sat motionless a few inches in front of the big green fish’s face, I waited to see if the smell alone would bring him over to bite. I waited and waited and waited and nothing happened. Then I tugged the pole a tiny, tiny bit so the worm jiggled.
The explosion of roiling water was impressive. My line spun out against the half-tightened drag, and the big green eel like fish took off towards the middle of the lagoon. It gave a rest and I tightened the drag a bit, holding my rod tip up. He then ran laterally back and forth and I reeled him closer, but slowly. I wanted this fish, well beyond the weight of my tackle, to get a bit tired out. So after four or five traverses, I loosened the drag again and let him run across the lagoon, then I pulled him back as I stepped down into the water for a safer landing.
I dragged the sucker onto the land without touching his skin, and putting him in a shady area and went for help. (Help identifying it.)
“What the heck is this fish?” I asked around.
Duane said “It might be a goby. But probably not. I’ve never seen a goby and have no idea what they look like.”
It would be important to know if that was true because goby is an invasive and I would not then release it. But I didn’t think so because I thought goby fish were very small.
Amanda said “Maybe its an eelpout. I heard they were scary looking.” (Eelpout = Lycodichthys antarcticus)
If it was an eel pout this big, I’d keep it and cook it up. It is a quaint belief among the Minnesotans that eelpout are inedible, but in fact, they are a delicacy and anyone who likes any kind of fish would relish it. This would be a chance to prove (or disprove?) that point.
I thought “Lungfish? This looks like a lungfish.”
So I got out the fish book and quickly determined that it was in fact, a lungfish, and was not an invasive. Bowfin are our local lungfish. So I put it back in the water and it happily swam away.
Well today, I saw a bowfin in the lagoon swimming around with its thousands of babies. The babies form a very tight ball of little fish with mom (I think its mom) in the middle. Mom alternates over several days between protecting the babies by lunging at other fish who might eat them, and eating the babies herself. Interesting strategy. “I’ll protect some of you but I’ll be too busy doing that to find my own food. Soo…..”
Eventually, a few of the babies swim off and try to become adults.
In fact, I saw mom bowfin lunge out at the mocking bass!
Bowfin, I have heard from the best possible Minnesota sources, cannot be eaten by humans. Tastes to icky. But again, this is a quaint belief. I’ve actually got recipes for them. Anyway, mark the date. This is bowfin baby season up here in Lake Country.
Oh, and guess what I did. I caught the damn mocking bass! Using a plastic worm. Ha!!!!