Although I work with fisheries staff I’m technically not a “fishhead”, but believe I’m starting to take a shine to some of these finned creatures. Take one of the oldest species still in existence for example, the bowfin.
Also known through an assortment of other colorful names, like dogfish, grinnel, mudfish, cottonfish, and cypress trout, this species dates back to the dinosaurs. He has survived droughts and floods and everything in between for eons.
Last year during the historic drought I was at Mingo peering over the big water control structure on the south end of the swamp. There in two foot of water were two big bowfin swimming slowly in the slack water waiting it out for wetter days. Perhaps they were waiting to see which one would loose their breath first and go belly up. I’m guessing that was a long and fruitless contest since this species has adapted to handle the low dissolved oxygen levels with a modified gas bladder that acts like a lung.
It was only a year earlier that I experienced the opposite situation with this creature of the swamp. In May of 2011, we were sampling the fish throughout the timber at Duck Creek as the flood waters spilled out of the ditches and across the entire basin. I witnessed young of the year bowfin grow an impressive 2 inches over a month’s time. The fingerlings and the adults both had voracious appetites eating everything from earthworms, diving beetles, tadpoles, to other fish.
Although not everyone has the same respect for this apex predator of the shallow freshwater seas, some anglers take great pride in snagging one of these monsters. Eric Whitehead of Puxico is one of these people and was rewarded with his efforts last week by landing one grand-daddy of a fish. Eric was bow fishing when he shot his record breaking bowfin that weighed 13.38 lbs. and measured 32.25” long. Congratulations Eric Whitehead on your trophy, you smashed the old record by nearly 2 pounds!
Not to rain on Eric’s parade, but as each record is broken, a new opportunity arises. Who knows when or who will successfully haul in the next record breaking brute out of the Duck Creek’s black water. What is certain despite the weather’s variability, this species has proven that it will live to fight another day.