Anglers are catching bowfin at Dawhoo Lake

Dean Elsey caught this bowfin at Dawhoo Lake earlier this week.

Bowfin are sluggish but hungry throughout winter

Bowfin, a/k/a mudfish, are often seen as a nuisance species, especially for anglers fishing for largemouth bass. But other anglers enjoy the fight of a bowfin just as much. Dean Elsey of Charleston fishes for them from a kayak, and said these fish don’t disappoint.

Elsey likes fishing for bowfin so much that he participates in a yearly competition, the Muddy Masters Tournament. The competition focuses on bowfin, awarding the top prize to the angler with the best weight of a three-bowfin limit.

Elsey said he and one friend are typically the only kayak anglers that fish in that tournament. But he is hoping to get other kayak anglers involved.

“A buddy and I are typically the only ones that compete from kayaks. But I’d like my fellow kayak anglers to get involved and show them you don’t need a big boat to fight these dinosaurs,” he said.

Some anglers refer to bowfin as dinosaurs simply because they look prehistoric. But these fish actually are one of the oldest species of fish on the planet, and swam the earth when dinosaurs were still on it. For many anglers, that adds to the fascination with the fish.

The Muddy Masters Tournament doesn’t take place for several more months. But Elsey is catching them right now at Dawhoo Lake. He said they’re considerably more docile this time of year than they are in warm weather. He caught one wider than his kayak earlier this week, and expects that fish will put up a much tougher fight once summer arrives.

The Jurassic Classic is a kayak bowfin tournament

“The bite is tougher in the colder months and they don’t fight very much. So I was able to handle this one without breaking my wrist,” he joked.

Elsey is a member of the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers. The group holds a yearly tournament for bowfin called the Jurassic Classic. Their members agree that the fish shouldn’t be just an “unlucky” by-catch when fishing for bass, but deserves its own tournament.

And while many anglers often catch these fish while targeting other species, Elsey said it’s definitely possible to specifically target them. The technique for catching these fish is pretty similar to fishing for bass. The main thing, said Elsey, is location.

Elsey’s most recent bowfin catch was as wide as his kayak.

“Dawhoo is filled with them. A lot of people swear by spinnerbaits, but I am particular to a good ole Texas rig with a Berkley PowerBait worm. You want to drag it low and slow in the winter. And when the weather is nice, bang the banks,” he said.

Bowfin are rough on tackle. So whether you’re casting spinnerbaits, plastic worms, or another type of lure, don’t tie on any premium lures or one that you’re especially fond of.


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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1838 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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