Bowfin vs Snakehead – How to Tell The Difference

By Get Fishing •  Published: 10/07/22 •  6 min read

A good number of anglers tend to confuse Bowfins and Snakeheads. While they do look similar they are completely different species of fish. In this post we will go over the differences between Bowfins and Snakeheads so you know exactly what kind of fish you are catching

bowfin vs snakehead

Is a Bowfin the Same as a Snakehead?

No a bowfin is not the same as a Snakehead. A bowfin (Amia calva) is a native fish in the United States. They can be found in the Midwest and Southern parts of the country. The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is an invasive species originating in Africa and Asia that was introduced into the United States. The two fish species are not related even though they do look the same.

What’s the difference between Bowfin vs Snakehead

There are a few key differences between the bowfin and snakehead fish. Bowfins are typically shorter and stockier than snakeheads, and they have a more rounded head. Snakeheads have a long heads that are pointed like a snake. Bowfins tend to be greenish in color and Snakeheads have a snakelike pattern in their coloration.

The two species of fish share few similarities. They both have four gills and a long intestine that helps them extract nutrients from food. They are also both coldblooded, meaning their body temperature varies depending on the environment around them. They are both predator fish meaning they feed on other animals around them.

What is a Bowfin

what is a bowfin

The bowfin (Amia calva) is a freshwater fish found in North America. This fish has an elongated body and a broad head with large, round eyes and a small mouth. The body is olive green on the back and silvery on the sides. The bowfin has a large, blunt nose and short, sharp teeth. This fish can grow up to 2 feet long and weigh up to 8 pounds. Males have a spot on the large rounded tail.

What is a Snakehead


Snakeheads are species of snakehead fish that are native to Africa and Asia. It is an invasive species that can be found in the United States. It lives in the coastal rivers and estuaries of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This species can reach a length of 22 inches. It is a predatory fish that feeds primarily on smaller fish, but will also consume crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates.

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How to tell the difference Bowfin vs Snakehead

difference between a bowfin and a snakehead

There are a few key differences between the two fish. Bowfin have a more rounded snout and have a wider body than snakesheads. Their scales are less densely packed. Bowfin also have a smaller anal fin. Snakeheads, on the other hand, have a pointed and flattened head, their scales are more densely packed, and have a very long anal fin.

Bowfin vs Snakehead Size Differences

Bowfin and snakeheads are similar in size. They both can grow up to 40 inches and weigh around 6 lbs average.

One of the main differences between the bowfin and snakehead is that the snakehead has a more slender body, while the bowfin is more stocky. Another difference between the two fish is that the snakehead has a wider head with smaller eyes and teeth than the bowfin.

The other main difference between the two fish is that the snakehead has a more elongated dorsal fin, while the bowfin’s dorsal fin is shorter and more rounded.

Bowfin vs Snakehead Teeth

Bowfin have a big mouth that is full of sharp teeth. The teeth are visibly larger than a Snakehead’s teeth. Snakeheads have lots of tiny teeth and a couple of bigger and longer teeth. Both of these fish have a good set of teeth on them. You don’t want to put your hand in either of these fish’s mouth.

Bowfin vs Snakehead Taste

Bowfin and Snakehead taste very different from one another. Snakeheads are the preferred eating fish with a mild flavor and texture similar to mushrooms. Bowfin take a little more work to prepare, but has been compared catfish with a stronger flavor. If not prepared correctly, bowfin can have a jelly or mushy like texture and “muddy” flavor.

Where can you Find Bowfin

You can find Bowfin throughout the South, Costal Plain, and the Midwest along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The are often found in swamps, lakes, and sloughs in thick vegetation and low oxygenated waters.

Bowfin Fishing Tips

There are a few basic things that you need to know before bowfin fishing. The first is that these fish are ambush predators, which means that they will lie in wait for prey to swim by before pouncing on it. Secondly, they are voracious predators and will eat just about anything that they can catch, including other fish, crabs, and even water snakes.

When bowfin fishing, it is important to use a good line and a good-quality rod. It’s best to use live bait so you can have a better chance at catching bowfin. Minnows, nightcrawlers or crayfish are all good options.

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If you want to use artificial lures, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits are all great options to use. Bowfin like to target flash like Muskies so anything that causes vibration and shines light is a great choice.

Where Can You Find Snakehead

Snakeheads are native to Asia and Africa, but invasive populations are found in the United States and are very prevalent in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Virginia. They prefer ponds, creeks, streams, and lakes that are shallow and heavily vegetated.

Snakehead Fishing Tips

What is a snakehead

Like the bowfin, snakeheads are ambush predators and aggressive feeders. They will feed on insects, small fish, and crustaceans. If you want to be effective, live bait will always work best. Crawfish, minnows, and nightcrawlers or crickets are great options to start with.

Artificial lures are great choices too. Stick to weedless baits since snakeheads tend to hang around heavy vegetation. Frogs, Jigs, Spinnerbaits, and bladed jigs are all great options. You can get away with a crankbait if you fish it on the outside of the vegetation line, but be prepared to deal with a snag or two.


While bowfin and snakehead look a lot alike, they are different species altogether. As their popularity grows in the world of sport fishing, people will start to target them more often to enjoy the fight that both these species give. They are strong and like to jump and pull hard. Next time you hook one of these, hopefully you’ll know which one is which.