Berkshire Woods and Waters: Massachusetts has a new state record bowfin

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Massachusetts has a new state record bowfin. It weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was caught July 23 out of the Taunton River. Sixteen-year-old Tauri Adamczyk, from Taunton, caught the fish. The bowfin was 26 1/2 inches long with a girth of 14 inches.

Fishing with her father Jeff from shore and using cut bait, she saw a little nibble on her line. When she picked up her pole and set the hook, the fish took off down the river. Tauri was using a strong rod and line and was able to work the fish back close to shore. It was then that they realized they had forgotten the net. Her father ran to the car and got it. He was sure happy to see that the fish was still on Tauri's line when he came back and netted it. They are undecided as to whether or not to have it mounted.

Tauri is no novice when it comes to catching bowfins. In 2015, she received the MassWildlife gold pin for catching the largest bowfin that year, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces. That was the first year that the bowfin was recognized by MassWildlife as a sportfish and became part of the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. It replaced the broodstock salmon pin, which was removed as an eligible fish after the MassWildlife and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stopped stocking the broodstocks into our waters. To be eligible for a pin (bronze or gold) a bowfin must weigh at least 6 pounds for adults and 4 pounds in the youth category.

In fact, 2015 was the year that she won the Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year. She won the award by catching the following "pin" fish: Bowfin out of the Taunton River, Taunton; brook trout, Hamblin Pond, Barnstable; brown trout, Grews Pond, Falmouth; brown trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; bullhead, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester; carp, Housatonic River, Lee; carp, Charles River, Dedham; chain pickerel, Snake Pond, Sandwich; crappie, Long Pond, Lakeville; landlocked salmon, Wachusett Reservoir, West Boylston; largemouth bass, Chartley Pond, Norton; rainbow trout, Cliff Pond, Brewster; smallmouth bass, Flax Pond, Brewster; sunfish, Little Pond, Plymouth; sunfish (another gold pin fish), Coonamessett Pond, Falmouth; tiger trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; white perch, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester and yellow perch, out of Monponsett Pond, Halifax. Quite an accomplishment for a 14-year old kid. Tauri said that she has been fishing with her dad since she was a little girl.

So, you've never heard of a bowfin? Well, it's a primitive fish in the gar family. They go by other names such as dogfish, grinnel, and mud fish. They are easily identifiable with a single dorsal fin that runs from mid-body to the tail, a large head, sharp teeth, two barbells projecting anteriorly from its nose and a black spot near its round tail. They average from 1-5 pounds and 15-25 inches in length. The world record is 21 pounds. They breathe under water through their gills, and breathe on the surface with their gas bladders. They are very aggressive weedy predators. They are considered rough fish and not recommended for the table, but perhaps you can smoke them.

According to Alan Richmond from the biology department at UMass-Amherst, only one species of the family Amiidae has survived over the millions of years and that is this one, the Amia calva. They are native to the Mississippi River watershed but were first noticed in the Connecticut River drainage in the 1980s. Now it lives mainly in the Connecticut and Taunton river drainage systems, although they have been caught right here in the backwaters of Onota Lake in Pittsfield. In fact, the first year that I began writing this column, I featured this fish in my May 9, 2004 column. John Valentine of Pittsfield a caught a 28-inch bowfin out of Onota Lake. At that time, the DFW did not consider it a sportfish and recommended that you not release it back into the waters because it is not native to this area. They didn't want them to spread in our local lakes and compete with our native fish. We can only speculate how these fish got into our waters, but some say they may have been the result of accidentally getting in with live bait that is imported from the south.

Catch and release validated

Remember my July 23, 2017 article about 12-year old Nina from Queens, N.Y. who caught that big bass in Ashmere Lake? If you recall, she was fishing with her 10-year-old cousin Gage at Dave and Maggie Bimbane's cottage on July 4 weekend when she caught the 18-inch, 2 1/2-pound largemouth bass which was living under a boat dock. After catching and photographing it she released it.

Well, don't you know, young Gage also caught an 18-inch, 2 1/2-pound bass from under that same dock on July 26. According to grandparents Dave and Maggie, he remained calm and collected, in spite of the fact that his fishing pole was bent under that dock. After catching and also releasing the fish, Gage said "oh, I think I'm done for a while."

Dave and Maggie feel that the same fish was caught by both children ... and so do I. That being the case, what better testimony for the concept of catch and release than this. If you are not going to mount or eat your catch, then release it and let someone else experience the excitement and joy that you got when you caught it.

Young Gage may not realize it now, but he sure owes his cousin Nina a huge thank you.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.

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