Can you eat bowfin?

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