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Parts of a Fish




Got a cool picture of a Bowfin you want to share??  Email it to us and we will add it!!  Please let us know who to credit the photo to.

Photo by Bigugli

Ontario Bowfin
Photo by Ben Daniels

Ontario Bowfin  
Photo by Adam Hotchkin



DOGFISH and lawyer are other names commonly used for this fish. The name, dogfish, is unfortunate because it properly belongs to a small shark. Likewise, the name, lawyer is inappropriate because it is applied to the burbot.

The bowfin (Amia calva) may be distinguished from all other fishes of the region it inhabits by the long dorsal fin which arches in a bow over most of the length of the back. The tail fin is abbreviate heterocercal in shape The body is robust, almost cylindrical and covered with smooth cycloid scales. These are smooth edged scales, concentrically striated

The head is flattened on top, and the mouth is large and provided with sharp teeth, strongly set in the jaws. There is a unique, bony plate at the front of the under surface of the lower jaw. Among our freshwater fishes, this bony plate is found only in the bowfin.  Like the longnose gar this fish is capable of breathing air.

The back of the fish is dark olive-brown, shading to a cream or yellow colouration on the belly. During the breeding season, the fins are a vivid green colour, and a mark on the caudal fin, called the ocellus, becomes much more intensely coloured. In the adult male, this spot is rimmed with orange-yellow.

The bowfin occurs in the St. Lawrence drainage, through the Great Lakes (excepting Lake Superior) to Minnesota, southward in the Gulf drainage to Texas and Florida, and north in the Atlantic coastal plain to the Carolinas.

Bowfin Range

Like the gars, the bowfin prefers sluggish, weedy waters. An example of the habitat preference is their abundance in the cattail marshes around the southwestern shore of Lake Erie, as compared with their relatively rare occurrence around the rocky Erie islands (Langloislls).

Movements: The long dorsal fin has an undulating movement and is often used to propel the body forward. In May and June, the bowfin resort to weedy bays and marshes to spawn.  Females can hold up to 64,000 eggs.


Photos by Mike McDermott


Ontario Fishing Magazine

Photo by Dan Bouck