Updated: Nov 7, 2022
By David Graham 4-1-2022
I got out on the Sportspal today for a couple hours of fishing before picking my daughters up from school. Its been a while since I hit up some of my favorite spots on the Caloosahatchee river for big bowfin... its a close to home body of water (I live on it) and always a great option when time is limited
It was also a chance to really put the new 4 rod and reel setup I got just for bowfin to the test. I am not really one to go around touting brands for free but... I picked up four of the 4500 Penn Spinfisher LL's spooled them each with 40lb braid and have them on a 7 foot heavy Blackfin inshore Carbon-E rod. I really like the stout backbone on these inshore rods... great for driving the hook into the tough mouth of bowfin and gar.
The approach along the river - and most rivers I fish - is finding those small little creek mouths, openings to coves, little access channels that lead into and out of the main body of the river. If I can find grass margins or pads on the outsides of these little cuts, there are usually bowfin around.
The rig is my basic go-to... a 2 foot section of 40lb flouro leader tied to a 1/0 octopus hook. Above the rig a sliding 5 inch Thill balsa float. The balsa floats glide effortlessly along the surface of the water creating minimal resistance that could alert the fish into dropping the bait.
The first was a decent specimen just over 8 pounds. It gave a spirited fight, even tailwalking across the surface away from the landing net.
Action was not terribly fast, but this has never been an area that produces big numbers... it does produce BIG fish though. The Caloosahatchee is a very unique river - especially the stretches around Alva... where freshwater and saltwater species coexist in a very uniquely balanced ecosystem. Here, bowfin are rubbing shoulders with tarpon, snook, jack crevalle, and even juvenile bull sharks. Natural selection demands that they up their game.
Still though, this river has healthy populations of your more typical freshwater species. At one point this proved so when I caught a freakin largemouth bass on cut mullet sitting totally stationary on the bottom. That hasnt happened to me very often!
I did manage one very nice bowfin before it was all said and done. The 30 inch fish tipped the scales at 10lb 4oz... though I really thought at boatside she was much bigger!
In total 5 bowfin were landed - several were lost... along with 1 largemouth and it couldn't have been a bowfin trip without landing atleast one turtle... In all my experience catching species that get bigger, faster, or 'stronger'... its the bowfin that always keeps me coming back to the waters edge, the fish that keeps me up at night!