There are certain fish that spark fear and, sometimes, even hate. Sharks are a good example. We used to catch them from time to time when I was a teen, fishing with my buddies. We’d mistreat the fish and send them back into the deep to be eaten. It wasn’t until I started fishing here in Southern California and started to be plagued by sea lions that I appreciated the role that sharks play in the ecosystem.

The bowfin is a fish known by many names: grinnel, chopique, and mud pike, among others. Many anglers consider it a trash fish, but in this article from Fishing Tackle Retailer, author Joe Sills describes how he learned to appreciate this ancient fish.

bowfin3-298x300The strike shook our canoe like a violent hiccup from the deep. Suddenly there were voices shouting. Equipment shaking. Drag screeching.

We weren’t prepared for this.

The fish presently devouring a white and yellow Bandit crankbait was no bass. And we should have known it from the beginning—all of the warning signs were there.

A buddy and I had journeyed into the river bottoms just after a major flood. The water had only days earlier receded enough for roads to be opened back up; and it’s a well-known fact among anglers that strange creatures often make their way into oxbows during a flood.

Given the conditions, our choice of craft was especially poor: a leftover 1970′s era Boy Scout canoe. A few weeks ago I had spotted its aluminum husk hiding under a vine-covered peach tree on the family farm and decided to rig it into a free, portable adventure-mobile. Part of the stern was made from plywood and silver spray-paint.

Seconds earlier, a man-sized gar wallowed up to my paddle just to take a look before flashing his teeth and receding down below.

Now, we were in chaos as another monster spun our plywood stern around and headed for deeper water.

Photos: Fishing Headquarters (top); Fishing Tackle Retailer (above)