Can you eat a bowfin fish? (Answered!)

Looking at fried fish wondering Can you eat a bowfin fish

Anglers have debated the question “ Can you eat Bowfin fish?” for years. But the answer isn’t as simple as you would think. 

Bowfin fish have been pinned as bottom feeders and thus not deemed as worthwhile to catch as your better-eating game fish. 

However, the bowfin is known to be a spirited fighter and apparently rivals fish like the Walleye and Pike in the way it fights.

But does it rival these fish in taste as well? This article gets to the bottom of whether bowfin fish are edible.

You can eat bowfin fish, but it divides people on taste and texture. Its diet is mainly crustacean and small fish which typically produces a good flavor in the flesh of fish. It’s often compared to catfish when cooked properly, otherwise, bowfin fish flesh has a tendency to go soft and taste bad.

Check out another article in our fish species series about the fantastic bait hardtail fish. Click here for how and where to catch them!

Bowfin fish – are they ok to eat?

Bowfin Fish are edible but are often overlooked as many would say they don’t taste the best. Their look also isn’t the most inviting. The Bowfin fish is a long, slimy fish with a large rounded mouth and is olive green to brown in color.

Many also find its nickname a put-off. The Bowfin fish is often called the Mudfish. It gets its nickname from the water and muddy texture in its flesh if not cleaned correctly.

The reason Bowfin fish are said to not taste great is due to where they live and what they eat. Bowfin Fish live in dirtier water than your other more conventional fish.

The kind of water they live in is low in oxygen in comparison to other areas. This results in the bowfin fish having a much higher concentration of mercury in its system. To humans, too much mercury does have certain health concerns. 

Some anglers believe the fish to have a muddy texture due to it largely eating crustaceans from the river or lake floor and taking in the mud with it. Other anglers believe this to be a myth because, in other good-tasting fish, a diet of crustaceans often produces a great-tasting fish.

There is evidence that points to the fish having a muddier texture to its meat because of its habitat. What this means is that we need to prepare it well before eating it.

Bowfin fish – What does it taste like? 

The Bowfin fish for some tastes amazing! Others would argue that it is terrible. It all comes to personal preference. The Bowfin’s flesh isn’t as firm as other species and unfortunately if not used or cleaned well it gets rather sludgy and maintains the muddy taste people say it has. It also has a stronger fishy taste than other fish and is often compared to the catfish.

Those who don’t enjoy the taste of Bowfin.

Many have come to describe the Bowfin fish’s taste as muddy and unsatisfying. They have even called it Cottonmouth due to the texture when it isn’t cooked well. 

Reasons for this could be the amount of blood in the meat if not cleaned well. Or the sludgy texture the meat becomes when left for a while before filleting. Even using too much water to clean the fish can apparently ruin the taste.

Those who do enjoy the taste of Bowfin.

People who enjoy it say it tastes similar to catfish. In South Lousiana, the Bowfish is called Choupic and is thoroughly enjoyed. They have a large amount of meat in them and not many bones. 

The taste will also largely depend on how you prepared and cook it. If you grill it or fry it. 

Cleaning and preparing a bowfin fish

This is probably the most important step in answering the question of whether we can eat Bowfin fish or not. Any bowfin fanatic will tell you. Eating a bowfin all depends on how you clean and prepare it. 

Steps to fillet the Bowfin Fish:

  1. The first thing you need to know is that bowfin has to be eaten fresh. You cannot freeze them or let them stand because the flesh deteriorates in quality and firmness quickly. 
  1. You need to clean and cook them straight out of the water to get the best taste. 
  1. Keep the bowfin alive as long as possible when filleting it.The reason for this is that you want to clean as much blood out of the meat as you can. The blood gives the meat a muddy flavor.
  1. It’s not too difficult to fillet the fish. They have a long bodies, and the ribcage section is the main bony section. After that it is mainly just meat and one fish can provide a significant amount of meat. 
  1. Start at the gills and cut along the spine through the ribs to the tail.
  1.  Remove the skin and then further clean the fillet by wiping it with a dry cloth or wet. 
  1. Avoid getting too much water on the fillet as this will make the meat go soggy. The meat will feel a bit soggy already. 
  1. Cut it into smaller finger-size pieces and it should be ready to cook. Remember to cook it as soon as possible!

4 Bowfin fish recipes – How to cook bowfin fish 

Many anglers have their preferred method of cooking Bowfin fish. Here are some that could work for you.

1. Fried Bowfin fish

Once you have filleted and cleaned the fish as instructed to do above all you need is some egg yolk, some corn flour or corn meal flour (regular flour tends to make the flesh go soggy), and the spices you would like. Dip the finger-sized fillet into the egg and then the flour. Once done, put it in a pan with oil. Deep fry to you see it golden brown and take it out. Grab some lemon and pepper and dig in!

2. Grilled bowfin fish

You can also grill Bowfin. After cleaning and cutting the Bowfin into finger-sized pieces. Add lemon, butter, pepper, and rosemary to the fish. Wrap it in tinfoil and place it on the stove with a heat of 275’ Fahrenheit. Keep turning the foil with the fish inside. Check the fish often and once it is pale and firm it should be done. 

3. Poached fillets to make poboys

Another method is to add the bowfin fillets to some crab boil liquid and gently poach them. Then once the fillets are just cooked, flake them up and combine with boiled mashed potato, and sauteed onion, green bell peppers and some cajun seasoning. With this mixture make patties to a similar size to hamburger. Fry or grill and use the patties to make delicious poboys!  

4. Smoked Bowfin fish

Smoking bowfin flesh is an old time approach for making bowfin meat much more palatable than fresh bowfin. You need to keep it simple and all that’s required is a simple salting and then into the smoker. This process supposedly transforms fthe flesh of bowfin from mushy and dry to moist, creamy and smooth. The smoke imparts an additional layer of flavour that complements the flesh.  

Bowfin fish – What type of fish is it?

The Bowfin is generally known as a bony sport fish. It is part of the Amiidae family and dates back to the prehistoric period. This fish is a vicious predator with a long cylindrical body and a slimy texture on its skin. 

A bowfin fish, but how to cook bowfin?

How to Handle Bowfin Fish.

Anyone would know when you bring one of these fish onto land they go crazy and are difficult to handle because of their texture. You also cant hold them by the mouth as they have two sets of sharp teeth.

The best way of handling these fish would be to have a suitable-sized net with you. When you have got the fish out of the net hold it by the tail and under the pectoral fins for the best grip. To get the lure or hook out you could use a pair of pliers or your hands.

Where do bowfin fish live?

The bowfin fish can be found in slow-moving sluggish waters with a good amount of vegetation. Bowfin fish do not like strong currents much. These fish also can come up for air allowing them to be very versatile in where they live, clean or dirty water. 

The areas where you would most likely find bowfin fish would be near backwaters, swamps, lowland lakes, and large areas of aquatic vegetation. They can be found in many of the great lakes in North America.

Can you eat a bowfin fish? Summary

If you’re the adventurous angler when it comes to trying new species of fish as table fare – as long as they are safe – then we’ve given you a bunch of ideas to try out eating bowfin fish. And now you’ll be able to tell other anglers who ask you can you eat a bowfin fish or how to cook a bowfin fish, you can pass on your new found culinary wisdom to them!