Bowfin is the only living species of a once widespread family of primitive bony fishes. It is found only in eastern North America, although extinct relatives were present in Europe and Asia as well, based on fossil evidence. Bowfin are easily recognized by their torpedo shaped body, asymmetrical rounded tail, long dorsal fin and a black eyespot at the base of the tail. Their most distinctive feature is a heavy plate between the lower jaw. In New York it is found in slow-water, weedy areas in large streams and in lakes. It occurs in most drainages in the state, but populations are widely separated and relatively small. It is native to New York, although it is likely that it has been introduced in drainages in the southern part of the state.
Bowfin lives in vegetated parts of lowland lakes, and slow-moving lowland rivers and in bays of northern and western border waters. It is not native to the Delaware, Upper Hudson, Lower Hudson, Susquehanna and Long Island watersheds, although records from the latter two are few. Both frequency of catch and range have increased in recent years.