Freshwater Dogfish in Michigan: The Essential Guide

Are you searching for information on freshwater dogfish in Michigan? If so, you have come to the right place! This article will provide you with a brief overview of this hard-fighting species. Also known as bowfin fish, they are among the most challenging fish to catch. A five-pound freshwater dogfish can be as tough to kill as a ten-pound steelhead, but without the aerial display!

Dogfish in Michigan

The bowfin, Amia calva, is the last surviving member of the order Amiiformes

Freshwater Dogfish in Michigan

Dogfish, also known as the bowfin, is native to Michigan waters. It also comes by other names, including beaver fish, blackfish, cottonfish, cypress trout, grinnel, grindle, mud pike, mudfish, Choupique, and swamp trout. 

Its scientific name, Amia Calva, comes from the Greek word calva, meaning skull, which may refer to its scaleless head. 

Based on its appearance, one might consider it a Jurassic Park fish, and that is not a far stretch. In fact, the bowfin is the sole survivor of Amiiformes, a group of extinct dinosaur fish that ruled the seas for more than 100 million years ago.

Nowadays, it can be found mostly in the eastern United States and southern Canada.

What Does A Freshwater Dogfish Look Like?

In case you never see them before, here is a picture of a freshwater dogfish in real life!

Dogfish in Michigan

The spiny dogfish, spurdog, mud shark, or grindle isolated on white background

Bowfin fish has a long cylindrical body and a long dorsal fin which extends over half the length of its back. It also has a rounded tail fin with a black spot on the upper base. And you can tell it apart from other types of fish by its a large mouth and an olive green body color that fades lighter on the belly. 

Females can reach 30 inches in length, while the average length for males is 18 to 24 inches. They normally weight from 1 to 5 pounds but can reach up to 19 pounds in size.

As the name implies, they are carnivorous and feed on smaller animals. A typical feeding session includes carving off a chunk of prey. These predators are known as “cookie cutter sharks” because they eat large prey as well.

In some regions, they are considered edible. But you should be careful when attempting to eat them. They can be quite deadly if you don’t know how to properly prepare them.

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Are Bowfin Native To Michigan?

If you are interested in catching a bowfin (a.k.a dogfish), you might be wondering if there are any in Michigan. Fortunately, this type of fish is native to Michigan water, so you can find it almost anywhere all over the state.

Some of the most popular places for bowfin fishers are: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Little Crooked Lake, Moore Lake, Dogfish Lake, Tipsico Lake, and Gravel Lake.

Although it is a native species in Michigan, the habitat of dogfish varies greatly in various regions.

In southern Australia and New Zealand, the species inhabits coastal waters with a temperature ranging from 7 to 15 degree Celsius. They inhabit shallow waters with abundant sunlight and migratory patterns and feed on a variety of fish and crustaceans.

How to Identify Different Types of Dogfish in Michigan

Bowfin Fish Michigan

In a Michigan river, you’re unlikely to see bowfin fish in michigan unless you live in its natural habitat. They require a rich salad of weeds and grass to survive and reproduce. They also rarely swim in open water, preferring the mucky swamps and tidal creeks that cut through swamps and the main river. Their abundant availability speaks volumes about the health of the surrounding aquatic ecosystem.

You’re likely to see bowfin in the near shore of an inland lake in Michigan. These near-shore habitats are where panfish and bass gather to spawn. But you may also notice the invasive snakehead. While bowfin don’t harm native fish, they are invasive to the native ecosystem. For that reason, you should always report any fish you catch. The DNR can help you determine whether you’ve encountered a bowfin or a snakehead.

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Spiny Dogfish

When harvesting Spiny Dogfish, it is important to properly prepare the fish before removing the skin, fins and belly flaps. The product is sold fresh and frozen, and may also be smoked. The tails and fins are also processed and exported to Europe, and the backs are often used in the fish-and-chip trade. They are not commonly processed into fillets in the US.


If you’re looking for the most beautiful dogfish in Michigan, you’re going to have to find a Bitterling. This small dog fish can grow up to four inches long and can be found in many rivers and lakes throughout the state. Its metallic streak is an attractive feature that makes it easy to identify. However, there are some things you should know before attempting to acquire one. Bitterling is an endangered species and is protected by the state.

If you’re looking to purchase a trophy fish, you should know that they’re tough fighters. These fish are bigger than steelhead, so don’t expect to see them flying. In Michigan, you can find a seven-pound dogfish in South Lake Leelanau. The state’s fishery regulations require a permit for any invasive species. In Michigan, you can also obtain a permit to transport, import, or possess the Bitterling.

Are Dogfish Invasive In Michigan?

Dogfish is not an invasive species, however, it often gets confused with another invasive one called snakehead. The snakehead fish in Michigan affect native species and ecosystems because of its voracious appetite. It feeds on juvenile and adult fish, crustaceans, and even insects. 

Since the invasive northern snakehead fish is so difficult to kill, state officials have been scrambling to remove them from other ponds. They have also announced guidelines to report sightings of snakehead fish in Michigan’s waterways.

Snakehead and dogfish are slightly different in color

Although technically, it is not an invasive species, dogfish is still considered  invasive by a lot of fishermen. The reason is that freshwater dogfish can go in swarms of thousands of individuals at a time and cause damage to a certain extent to the local fishery. 

The species consumes invertebrates and fish, animals that fishermen are working hard to conserve like codfish and baby lobsters. They also tend to cause harm to the anglers’ boats and destroy the fishing gears with its sharp teeth and strong nature.

Overall, you can easily see why dogfish is not typically welcomed by fishermen.

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Is Michigan Freshwater Dogfish Dangerous?

The answer depends on how you look at them. The Spiny Dogfish is the most common, and while not particularly dangerous to humans, it is a scaly, abrasive species. Its spiny dorsal fins can cause nasty wounds if not handled carefully. It curls up into a bow to protect itself, and it strikes out when threatened.

While they may seem small, Michigan dog fish are actually hardy freshwater fish that are known for their fierce fights. Even the smallest mudfish can go up to five pounds in weight and put up a good fight without the requisite aerial display. 

Like northern pike and muskie, it has razor-sharp teeth that can neatly slice through a braided line. Their skulls and jaws are also extremely robust. If you’re interested in catching it, you should keep these things in mind before heading out on a fishing trip.

However, it is worth noting that if handled properly, bowfins can cause almost no danger to humans. Rather, it is the challenges you go through catching a freshwater dogfish that makes it a rewarding fishing experience!

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Can You Eat Freshwater Dogfish?

Sharks, like the infamous dogfish, are a delicacy, but the question is: Are sharks good to eat? While sharks have long been prized for their fins, the truth is that dog fish are a better bet if you are looking for an unusual dish. 

While most people are skeptical of the taste of the freshwater dog fish, it can be a delicious delicacy. Many people grind the dog fish into patties and smoke it to make it edible. A hot smoked dogfish has a fine, smoky flavor and is soft to the touch.

Dogfish are also popular in the UK, where they are commonly eaten as a substitute for fish and chips. The meat of dogfish is sweet-tasting and turns white when cooked, making it a popular substitute for cod. You can also grill, broiled, bake, or roast it to enjoy delicious new flavors. 

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Final thoughts

Freshwater dogfish in Michigan is not an easy catch, considering its robust bodies and its large mouth of sharp teeth. However, if you manage to catch one in your fishing trips, it would be such a rewarding achievement. Besides, the fish can be made into a lavish delicious dish. So if you’ve got a chance, don’t hesitate to travel to Michigan State and give it a try!


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