Bowfin tail in shallow backwater at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Drawn to the splashing of its hunting small fish, we saw this Bowfin’s tail in shallow backwater at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The fish watching fun continues this Spring with an encounter with a Bowfin Amia calva, in the sunlit shallows of Monroe’s Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge. We heard the splashing from the boardwalk and ran up to see what resembled a catfish’s tail finning sinuously through partially submerged vegetation right beside the boardwalk.  This shallow back-water of the lake is very clear and parts of it are teaming with little fish.

I immediately saw the eye-spot on its tail, a roundel of reddish brown ringing a black central spot. This put me in mind of an Epaulette shark that beached itself in front of my brother, Hugh and I while we were walking on the shoreline of Komodo island in Indonesia’s eastern Nusa Tenggara. Like the shark, the Bowfin hunts small fish in shallow water, it also has an ancient lineage and retains many features common to its ancestral forms, but unlike the shark this fish is freshwater and can breathe air when in water with low oxygen content, it shares this capability with the Gar fish, also of ancient lineage. I think it’s very exciting to encounter these living fossils and I enjoy this sort of wildlife photography.

To our joy the fish’s face emerged and was well-lit! It paused, giving us time to photograph it before it swam out of sight under the boardwalk. Note it has two fleshy tentacles projecting from the nose, extending its tactile sense in murky water.

A Bowfin in shallow back-water of the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Bowfin's face has sensory tentacles.

The Bowfin’s face emerged, revealing its eyes and sensory tentacles. Wonderful to see this fish swimming among the Dwarf palmetto.