In the time gap between the end of spring and the beginning of fall hunting seasons, there is a unique outdoor activity for lovers of archery. Let me offer up the idea of bow fishing. This is a sport that combines the skill of archery with the enjoyment of fishing.
If you already have a bow that you use for deer hunting there are only a few modifications to be made to it to be able to participate in this cool sport that is far enough along to have well established tournaments in different parts of the country.
Most non-game and rough fish are legal for bow fishing. In our part of the state, carp and gar are two of the most sought-after targets. There are no limits on these fish and in most instances they need to be removed because there is an overabundance of them.
Additionally, there is no closed season on them, but late spring through the summer is the best time to go. Although neither is a culinary delight there are ways to dispose of them. Some hog farmers will take them as well as rendering plants to be ground up and used in animal feeds.
With regard to your bow, one thing to remember is that bow fishing is rough on your equipment and — though not necessary — you may need to think about buying another bow specifically for this activity. There are plenty of used ones out there that can serve the purpose nicely and will not be as expensive.
For most fresh water bow fishing excursions, no more than a 25- to 35-pound draw weight is necessary. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One is that you will oftentimes need to be able to draw your bow quickly in order to get a shot. The other is that this relatively light draw is sufficient for penetration. If you expand to larger saltwater fish or hard scaly fish like gar the draw weight will need to be more.
When it comes to arrows you don’t have to buy the most expensive kind. Many bow fishermen use fiberglass arrows that are made specifically for the wear-and-tear of the sport. They will serve your purpose and are not as costly as carbon composite arrows. It might also be worthwhile to buy a heavier arrow rest because it will hold up better to the rough and tumble world of bow fishing. Another reason for the heavier rest is that the arrows used are typically heavier than those used in deer hunting. For tournament bow fishing, the choice of arrows is another matter. Those guys are going to shoot the more expensive ones.
The type of arrowhead you use is another consideration. There are those on the market that are made for quick and easy release. These arrowheads are made especially for tournament fishermen.
With a turn or two of the arrow, the barbs retract and the arrow can be removed with minimal effort. There are also heads called carp points and gar points. The carp point is designed for soft flesh fish and the gar point for those with tougher exteriors.
Typically, the best places to look for carp and gar are shallow flats with good visibility that have some cover such as weed beds. If you quietly move along with your trolling motor you’ll find that most fish will not spook easily and will often sit still especially if they are holed up in the cover.
Night fishing from a boat is the most popular and efficient road to success. A good lighting system is a necessary item, as is a raised platform. There is nothing wrong with going simple to begin with until you figure out what works best in your situation.
One of the most difficult things for beginners will be aiming properly. John Hood of Dillard has been on the professional bow fishing circuit for years. He offers up a couple of tips on the best way to practice your aim point.
Hood said, “One of the best ways I’ve found to get the feel of shooting fish underwater is to sink Coke cans in some clear water. You can get the best feedback this way to help you see if you are aiming too high or low. Because of light refraction you have to allow about four inches low for every foot the fish is below the water line.”
Obviously this is one of those skills that will take practice in order to develop a feel for the shot so get those cans ready. With most amateurs if a fish is more than four or five feet deep your chances of a good shot and retrieve are dramatically diminished.
If you are fishing in daylight hours, another key piece of equipment to have with you is a pair of polarized sun glasses to combat light reflection off the water. You don’t have to pay $50 for these. Do a little shopping and you can find a pair for less than 20 bucks.
If you are looking around for something to fill your hunting and fishing needs during the summer doldrums bow fishing might be worth a try. Start off with the basics and enjoy your time on the water.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.