Amia Calva… bowfin… grinnel… mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, swamp trout, choupique…

Hearing this name for many immediately brings disgust and sometimes nausea, but I’m here to tell ya, you’d be pleasantly surprised at what this fish packs. Before cutting that line, read on to see this fish from another’s eyes… someone who’s grown up catching and cooking choupique, and always awaiting the next time he can get his hands on one.

The Bowfin, most commonly know around South Lousiana as Swamp Trout, or Choupique, is by far one of the most undervalued fish. But that’s no secret… most people turn up their noses with even the slightest mention of choup.. “hrrmp”. Anyone who’s ever hooked into one however, knows that they’re in for a fight, so those that enjoy fighting a fish, usually get a kick out of wrangling these old guys, but eating? Nah… most will cut the line once they realize they have one.


Targeting choupique isn’t all that hard either. Most freshwater bayous that feed into nearby lakes and river systems hold them. My father always told me, “the blacker the water, the better”, and it’s true. Black/Dark water means clean water for these bayous, and choupique definitely congregate here. Gear is also pretty simple. When I was younger, we used to put live crawfish or dead shrimp on a 4/0-5/0 hook, under a large stopper. Pop this hard and loud at an even clip, and wait for it to sink. Nowadays, I fish them like bass or reds… with either a worm on a wide gap hook, or with a spinner bait I normally use for redfish. Large Beetle Spins with swim baits are great for these. Much like reds, their mouths are tough, and having a strong hook like the ones on these redfish rigs really helps. Simply cast, and slowly retrieve. Preferred colors are black and chart, junebug, or tequila sunrise. Lastly, it helps to have 15# or higher line, with a good sturdy rod.

While choupique can be caught year round, best times are around spawning season. These fish are VERY aggressive, and get very defensive of their beds and fry. I’ve seen video and heard stories of them jumping or attacking feet of people walking in the flooded swamps.

Choupique as table-fare:

As stated, most people detest the idea of eating a choupique, and I’m sure I know why. I admit, the fish is NOT an attractive specimen. Basically, it’s one solid fish with hard bones, a sturdy jaw, and some nasty teeth. It’s also one of the few fish left over from prehistoric times. But I believe the biggest reason people have poor experience is because they mishandle the fish or treat it like all other fish; immediately put on ice, and/or store in bags with water to fry later. The secret? DON’T DO THAT!

That’s right! Choupique is best served fried, or made into balls or patties and then friend. The flesh is somewhat mushy and soft, and has an odd texture, but we can do a few things to combat this.

  • First off, keep the fish alive after catching. Put water in an ice chest, and put the fish live in the ice chest until you’re ready to clean.
  • Next, before cleaning, get a large bowl of ice water and put a tablespoon or two of white vinegar. This will keep the filets cold but also firm them up a bit.
  • When you’re ready to clean, knock em out, (you do not want to try and clean a live choupique… you’re going to have a bad time) and clean them like any other fish. While they do have some bones, they aren’t strong enough to keep an electric knife from cutting through them. You can get a TON of meat off one choupique, so don’t worry about messing up.
  • Put the filets in your ice water/vinegar mix.
  • Lastly, fry up like any other fish. I use an egg wash with Louisiana Fish Fry’s Seasoned Fish Fry.
  • *** While some put in Ziploc bags and freeze for later, I do not recommend. Choupique is best fresh and cooked and eaten as soon as possible ***

You can also make balls and patties by mixing the meat with potatoes, onions, green onions, flour, parsley, and seasoning. Fashion these into balls or patties, and fry. Recipes are all over the internet, so feel free to try that as well.

In closing, the biggest takeaways for eating choupique are to:

  1. Keep alive for as long as possible.
  2. Clean and place filets in ice water with a little vinegar to firm up the meat, and cook same day.
  3. The faster you get them to the table, the better they are.

So next time you’re looking for bass, and get a hold of Mr. Swamp Trout, consider giving him a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

-Aaron LaRose