The bowfin occurs throughout the Mid Atlantic states, preferring swamps, areas of heavy vegetation and other backwater habitats where it feeds on fish, crayfish, vegetation, and insects. Also known as mudfish, the bowfin is an aggressive predator that takes artificial lures as well as live baits.
Bowfins are identified by their slender body shape, long dorsal fins and small anal fins. They are dark green above, with lighter sides, overlaid with a darker reticulated pattern of markings.
The head is brown or yellow with darker markings, and the lower fins are green. Male bowfins have a black spot with a yellow or orange border at the base of the tail. Adults occasionally grow up to 3 feet long, weighing up to 10 pounds.
The bowfin is the only living member of a family of fish that existed over 100 million years ago. This living fossil can breathe oxygen directly from the air, allowing it to survive during periods of poor water quality. The bowfin tolerates acidic environments and often becomes a top level predator in tannic swamps where other species are unable to survive.
Bowfin are sometimes confused with the northern snakehead, an invasive species of fish from Asia.