My first encounters with a grinnel (bowfin, choupique, cypress bass, mudfish, dogfish) came fishing the gully down the street from our family home in West Orange.
Fishing dead shrimp on the bottom we would routinely catch grinnel in the 3-6 pound class and every once in awhile we would get on a monster that would snap our lines.
Most anglers are familiar with these fish only by chance. Grinnel more readily hit artificial lures more than any other rough fish and have spooked many bass fishermen over the years.
I will never forget my cousin Frank Moore and I fishing an area called the “Burnt Out Bridge” on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River just across from Orange. It is absolutely loaded with grinnel and each bass fishing trip over the years has yielded several of these ugly creatures.
We were catching some bass on a black crawworm with chartreuse pinchers but the grinnel started biting and the bass did not have a chance. I put on a topwater and told Frank, “I have never caught a grinnel on a topwater so maybe I will be able to get a bass.”
Famous last words.
On the very first twitch of the plug, a gigantic boil occurred over the plug in the tea-stained water. For a moment I thought I had on the biggest bass of my career but soon realized it was a 10-pound class grinnel. I was upset for a second and then realized I would have to be crazy to complain about fighting such a powerful fish.
According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, grinnel spawn in the late spring.
“Nests are constructed by males in shallow, weedy areas. Vegetation and silt are removed from the nest by males and the adhesive eggs attach to any hard structure that is left, such as roots, gravel, wood, etc. Eggs hatch in 8-10 days. Males guard both incubating eggs and fry which may remain in the nest for about nine days after hatching.”
“Initially, bowfin young feed on small invertebrates such as cladocerans (water fleas). By the time they reach about four inches in length they are primarily piscivorous, although crayfish can make up a substantial proportion of the diet, and frogs are also consumed. Young fish may grow as much as 12-14 inches during their first year. Bowfins tend to be found in deeper water during the day, and migrate into shallower areas used to feed at night. Their swim bladder is used as a lung and they may be seen surfacing to renew their air supply from time to time.”
In my opinion, grinnel are one of the best fish to seek in the pursuit of getting young people hooked on fishing. Virtually every neighborhood slough, bayou and backwoods pond in the eastern half of the state is loaded with them and they will hit pretty much anything.
The best setup is dead shrimp on a Carolina rig fished on the bottom although cut bait will work. Grinnel will also readily hit lures, especially soft plastic worms and spinners.
Look for areas with slow moving water and scout by watching for the fish rolling at the water’s surface.
Set up for 30 minutes and if you do not get bit move. Grinnel tend to find bait quickly when you offer it to them.
Chester Moore, Jr.