Can You Eat Bowfin?

The Question

Dear Gord,

Can you eat bowfin? They’re a great fighting fish, and early in the season we always catch a few in our lake just north of Parry Sound, Ontario. I’ve been wondering if we should try cooking them.


Ron “Turtles” Crick
Whitby, Ontario

The Answer

First let me say that I’ve always been intrigued by bowfins, but I have never actually caught one! They are generally a fish of the United States, and are found in warmer waters than we enjoy in most of Canada. As a result, bowfins are found in southern Ontario (about as far north as Lake Nipissing) but not much farther.

From what I can tell, while some folks eat them in the United States, the flesh doesn’t sound overly appetizing. I checked Scott and Crossman’s definitive scientific work, The Freshwater Fishes of Canada, and they say: “the flesh, although edible, is very soft and jellylike and not considered of much value.”

However, another reference says, “The flesh is dry, has a mild flavour and when moulded into patties, dipped in egg and bread crumbs or corn meal, it makes passably good eating.” If you do try eating them this season, please send us another e-mail, let me know what you think of the taste.

In the meantime, I think I’ll stick with walleye, trout and salmon.

A friend,

Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer

Fishing Editor Gord Pyzer is widely regarded as Canada's most scientific angler. Known in fishing circles as Doctor Pyzer, he worked for 30 years as a senior manager with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources before devoting all his energies to fishing. A member of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame, the award-winning writer is also an internationally sought out speaker, tournament angler and field editor with In-Fisherman Magazine and Television. As well, he co-hosts the Real Fishing Radio Show with Bob Izumi. Catch Gord on the Outdoor Journal Radio Show live every Saturday morning 8:05AM EST. If you're in southern Ontario, tune your radio to Sportsnet 590 The FAN AM or visit and listen live online.

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