Angling for Oddball Fish
areas containing woody cover or vegetation. These are prime areas to fish, even during bright sunny days. They will take a number of artificial baits including spinner baits, crankbaits and plastic worms. Natural baits such as night crawlers, minnows and bluegill (heads) fished on the bottom or under a bobber will often get the attention of a bowfin when they are ignoring artificial lures.
Although they will sometimes gently pick up a natural bait, the strike of a bowfin on an artificial lure can be only described as “vicious.” Unlike bass or crappie, you are never left wondering if you are getting a bite or not. They also have a habit of following a lure nearly to the boat before striking. Regardless of what type of tackle you are using, there is not much you can do with 3 feet of line between you and 6 or more pounds of angry fish except hang on. Bowfin have a hard mouth which makes it difficult to get a good hook set. Once hooked, they fight wildly and typically head for the nearest thick cover. Getting a bowfin to bite is generally not a problem. Getting it in the landing net can be.
Although few people eat bowfin, the fried fillets are quite tasty provided a simple rule is followed: Bowfin must be kept alive until cleaned or the meat will turn to the consistency of mashed potatoes. To clean the fish, fillet it in the same manner you would a bass or crappie, with one exception: As the flesh is being separated from the skin, cut it away into finger-sized steaks and wash immediately in cold water. Unlike some fish like white bass or blue catfish, bowfin do not have a “mudline,” so all of the flesh can be eaten. These steaks can be prepared for the table immediately or frozen in water where they will remain in excellent condition for several months. Speaking from experience, cold bowfin fillets are awfully good eatin’ while sitting on a bank waiting for another bowfin to bite!
Gar are found in most of the medium-to-large streams and reservoirs throughout Missouri. Of the four species of gar in the state, the longnose gar is the most widespread, being found statewide. With the exception of the alligator gar, it is also the largest, commonly reaching weights of 12 to 15 pounds. The current