|Bows - Bowfishing|
I am not a great angler. Invariably, when my husband Brian and I go fishing together, we end with tangled lines, constant snags and few fish to show for our efforts. So when he started bowfishing last year, I did not take much interest at first. In addition, Isabella, our then four-month-old daughter, still had me in a daze from the drastic change in the lifestyle she brought upon us. Nevertheless, one fine spring weekday at the end of May 2005, with just a few days left of my official maternity leave, I got cabin fever and decided to give this bowfishing thing a try. Mind you, I had never seen this done before, or tried it myself. I gathered up Isabella, grabbed the bowfishing setup Brian used, and on the off-chance I would catch something, found something to put the fish in, our green recycling bin!
After slathering Isabella with sunscreen, we drove to a series of creeks near our home where you can bowfish from shore by standing on culverts that run under the adjacent gravel road. While Isabella was strapped in her car seat sleeping peacefully on shore with her sunshade blocking the rays, I started to look for fish. Many a carp swam by, but they were safe with me as the predator. Shot after shot, I would miss and have to hand-wind the string back onto the reel. Just as I was about to doubt my abilities to catch fish with any apparatus, to my astonishment, I got one! That’s when my next dilemma began: What am I supposed to do now? With the fish fighting and splashing in the water, I dragged the line back to shore and up to the bank. The chaos really began at this point since I did not think I would be successful in my first bowfishing endeavor. I hadn’t even bothered taking the recycling bin out of my car. So with the carp flopping around on my arrow, I quickly scrambled up the embankment to my car, tangled in fishing line, frantically trying to find my car keys to get the recycling bin out of the trunk. Finally, after retrieving the bin, I figured out how to get the arrow point unscrewed and the fish off the arrow. I safely deposited my catch into the bin. Luckily, Isabella, oblivious to chaotic scene unfolding around her, continued to sleep on shore.
With newfound confidence in my abilities, I continued fishing. I got another one, and then another; this was fun! Thirty minutes later, I had six carp and buffalo flopping around in the recycling bin. At this point, the bin was getting full, and figuring six carp in the recycling bin is better than a seventh in the creek, I decided to call it a day. I packed up Isabella and hoisted thirty or more pounds of fish into the trunk of my car. Excited, I drove home to call Brian and relay the tale of my successful hunt. It was especially satisfying since I had done it all on my own. Thus, began my addiction to bowfishing.
I would encourage women just starting in hunting, fishing or archery to try this sport. Getting started is relatively simple, as it requires basic equipment, can be done in good weather and is very exciting once you get the hang of it. You just need a bow, a hat to cut down on reflection and shadows, sunglasses (preferably polarized) to be able to see into the water more clearly, and a container to hold your fish. I use a lightweight compound bow with my setup. Many people use a recurve bow to bowfish as they allow for quick draw and release when the action is fast. However, I like to use my compound as it is set at a light draw-weight so that I can come to draw when I see the carp coming up the creek and prepare for the shot without spooking them. Bowfish with whatever you are most comfortable with. You’ll need special bowfishing arrows with carp tips. I have also now upgraded my reel to an AMS reel with the Muzzy Safety Slide system. Whatever type of reel and arrow setup you use, NEVER tie your arrow string to the nock, as it can cause an arrow snapback that can result in injury or death.
In Minnesota, the best time to bowfish is during the spawn, which occurs from about mid-May to early June. Beginning around May 1, we do daily checks of the creeks, dams and inlets/outlets of the lakes in our area, looking for the rough fish as they spawn. If you are lucky enough to have a stable, flat-bottomed boat to shoot from, you can search the shallow areas of lakes and extend your bowfishing season past the spawn. Once you find the fish, simply start shooting. If you are shooting directly over the fish or they are right at the surface, you can usually aim right at them. However, if they are at any depth you will need to aim below the fish due to the refraction of the water. You’ll most likely have to use trial and error on the first several shots to get an idea of where your bow hits. Also remember that the fish can see movement above the water that can spook them, so moving slowly and wearing dark colors is best.
Once you get your fish on the line, pull it in, unscrew the arrow point, and slide the fish off the arrow and into your container. Some people smoke and eat the carp, but we bring them to a local hog farmer who feeds the fish to his hogs. Make sure you have a plan for disposal of your fish. Unfortunately, a few bowfishermen in our area simply leave the carp on shore. This is not only illegal due to wanton waste regulations, but it also makes for an unpleasant shooting experience for the next bowfisher.
This year I have continued with my bowfishing addiction and have been successful. My garbage hauler probably wishes I would find another hobby though.
© July 2006
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