Jefferson

Once upon a time long ago and far-away in a thicket along a dark-water creek, I caught a strange-looking fish that I couldn’t identify. It was small – about six skinny inches-long –and looked somewhat prehistoric. Sometime later, I became aware of a fish native to southeast Texas called a bowfin (AKA grinnel). I decided what I had caught back on Beech Creek west of Silsbee in Hardin County during the last century was a small bowfin, “the last survivor of Amiidae, an ancient, primitive family of fishes”. I guess that now justifies my calling the catch “prehistoric” looking.

I’m not making this up. The quoted phrase above came from “Fishing Texas”, an excellent reference guide compiled by my mentor and friend, the late Russell Tinsley.

I was fishing with my brother-in-law, Woody Halpin, when I caught that strange little guy. (The fish; not Woody!) I didn’t know what to call it. Neither did Woody, although he offered an unprintable option.

I never saw an actual bowfin until about 30 years later. Fishing on Caddo Lake one morning, I saw a trotline pulsating in the water. Curiosity overcame caution. Disregarding the risk that I could get shot for doing that there in the backwoods, I gently pulled the trotline up just to see if it was an alligator. It matched pictures I’d seen of bowfins. I slowly let the trotline sink back into the dark water and paddled away -- looking all around.

This past week, a friend sent me a picture of a fish and a fishing lure. He didn’t know what kind of fish it was. A friend of his had caught a bass on Lake LBJ (formerly “Granite Shoals”) using a suspending jerkbait artificial lure for bait. As he was removing the hook, the fish regurgitated a small baitfish it had swallowed that resembled the lure. 

It looked a lot like the little fish from Beech Creek, but Granite Shoals is “far away” from Silsbee, Texas. I called TPWD. My friend, Ken Kurzawski, an inland fisheries biologist there, said since I had described it as having vertical bars running down its side that it was probably a “logperch”. 

A WHAT?

I sent Ken the picture and he confirmed it. He said Texas has three species of logperch and two of them have been found in LBJ. Up until yesterday, I had never heard of logperch. Google confirmed their existence. There’s actually quite a body of research data supporting it. It’s a “darter” and one of the 247 species of freshwater fish that occupy Texas waters.

It’s written that it is primarily a native of east and southeast Texas, but is said to be in the Edwards Plateau, which would include Lake LBJ, the Colorado River, Guadalupe River and other streams. Logperch are considered bony and probably don’t have enough meat to appeal to anybody except other predatory fish, reptiles and birds. 

I think now that’s what I caught on Beech Creek. I apologize for telling people I’ve ever caught a bowfin.

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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