The Grand-daddy of them all...

Published on: Mar. 19, 2013

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.

Drought Proof

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.

Flood Prepared

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.

Shattered Record

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!

Who's Next

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.

Key Messages: 

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish.


On April 19th, 2013 at 2:13pm frank said:

During the youth hunt there were 2 birds harvested, one jake and one tom. In regards to shooting a hen the 2013.  I'll go ahead and address the second question as well. As stated in the spring turkey hunting pamphlet "Hens sometimes have beards, but color, size, and behavior distinguish them from gobblers. Hens are smaller, brown birds with blue heads. Bearded hens produce young and help increase the turkey population. They should not be killed, but any turkey with a clearly visible beard is legal in Missouri. Hens without beards are illegal to shoot."

On April 17th, 2013 at 8:46pm Anonymous said:

Can someone tell me how long a beard needs to be on a hen turkey to make her a legal bird during the spring hunt? Saw one Monday with a small beard on her chest. Hate to kill a hen anytime but wanted to check and see what is legal.

On April 17th, 2013 at 8:42pm Anonymous said:

Anyone know how many turkeys were killed during the youth hunt on duck creek?

On April 7th, 2013 at 6:53pm Anonymous said:

Thanks Frank, Duck Creek is one of the most challenging lakes around to fish....i love it and hate it all at the same time. Nowhere around will you pull out the quality fish that are in there.....just the numbers are sometimes frustrating. Then again it doesn't take many 1lb. bluegill to make a mess.

On April 2nd, 2013 at 3:08pm frank said:

We weathered the drought and did not experience a fish kill.  As you noted, the water got pretty shallow last year and I know folks were quite successful fishing because there weren’t too many options for fish to hide. Although at first it might not be seem logical, drought is good for the long-term health of a fishery.  As the aquatic plants dry out and begin to decompose they release all of the nutrients that are tied up within their tissue. As these dried out areas becomes flooded again these resources are available once again to the food web starting with zooplankton and working their way up through the bugs and finally to the fish.  This productivity is what gives you a trophy fishery like Pool 1.  Sure some folks don’t have the same admiration for bowfin, but their part of the overall community.  If you didn’t have a strong aquatic community you wouldn’t enjoy those chubby panfish and whopper crappie.  As the water temperatures rise I hope you're able to land your sport fish as well.

On March 31st, 2013 at 4:37pm Anonymous said:

How is pool1 in regards to the health of the lake and the fish after the drought last year. I went down there one time and the water on the south end was barely a foot deep. Was there any major kill off...or did it "turn over". Is that why we are having an article on trash fish and not the next record crappie? Thanks!

On March 27th, 2013 at 5:43pm Anonymous said:

Hi guys. Any updates on the plans for replacing Blinds with Boathides in A and B Unit?

On March 26th, 2013 at 1:48pm MattB said:

Roy, while it is too early to tell you exactly where the corn will be planted there are plans to place a few food plots out in Unit A and B this summer provided the weather provides us with an opportunity.  Normally we manage for moist-soil first and then place food plots in areas that need soil disturbance or areas that are not producing good annual vegetation for seed.  We will find a spot in most of the units to place some corn.  Our goal is to manage these units primarily for moist-soil so I would suggest planning to figure out ways to hide in this type of cover.  We will continue to work on clumps of willows and other small clumps of more robust vegetation for cover in the future, but that doesn't mean the ducks are always going to want to land next to these clumps.  Thanks for your question.

On March 26th, 2013 at 11:17am Roy said:

What's the plan for the row crops this year? What pools and where? Would be nice to get a little corn in most pools. It's too hard to hide in the smart weed if you don't have a layout boat. Thanks.

On March 25th, 2013 at 8:51am frank said:

As you all know, some hunts are more successful than others. During Thursday’s operation there wasn’t much action. One feral hog was killed.

On March 21st, 2013 at 10:25pm Anonymous said:

Would you know how many Feral Hogs were destroyed on Mingo so far?

On March 21st, 2013 at 12:37pm frank said:

Nope, there is quite a bit of water out there being used by quite a few birds.  The mallards, gadwall, shovelers, and teal are enjoying the area and looking sharp.  Earlier this week we had around 500 white-fronts on the area as well.

On March 21st, 2013 at 11:22am Anonymous said:

Has any water been drained from A and B Unit?

On March 21st, 2013 at 11:04am Femme ménage said:

That's right about Clois Coomer : 19 lb @ Duck Creek CA! Source: Missouri State Record Fish:

On March 20th, 2013 at 2:57pm frank said:

The pole and line record has stood for quite some time and is bigger than this latest archery record.  Clois Coomer of Chaffee landed a 19 lb bowfin back in March of 1963.

On March 20th, 2013 at 2:54pm frank said:

The east side of Pool 1 is open to public access today. 

On March 20th, 2013 at 3:32am Anonymous said:

what is the record bowfin on rod/reel? i had a 12lb grinnel in the mid 70's. i still remember the fight he put on, then the disappoinment seeing the dinasour looking fish instead of a large bass. they certainlly can tear up some fishing tackle.

On March 19th, 2013 at 10:27pm Anonymous said:

What is the pole and line record for the Missouri Bowfin?

On March 19th, 2013 at 10:23pm Anonymous said:

Can you tell us if Duck Creek will be closed during Mingo's Great American Feral Pig Hunt?
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