Once thought of as an off-season alternative for the hunting archer, bowfishing has become a sport in its own right.   Special equipment, tournaments and clubs have been developed exclusively for the sport of fishing with bow and arrow.  Some bowfishermen have returned to the more traditional bowfishing tactics and tackle.

 In many parts of the world carp is the major source of protein, yet in this country if one serves carp to guests, chances are they are likely not to return.  In the early spring carp move into shallows to spawn and the fishing archers follow.  The dedicated carp angler will continue on throughout the year following the fish on their travels. 

Bowfishing  is a sport that is easy to get into and even the most veteran bowhunter can get a rush from fighting an arrowed carp on 90 pound line with his bare hands.  One thing about fishing the Mississippi River drainage is that we have an abundance of carp. It has been found in the area since stocking programs in the end of the l9th century in about l879. 

Carp are found in virtually all types of water.  They can live almost anywhere from swamps and bogs to clear streams and large reservoirs.  The common carp of our waters reach lengths of two to 3 feet and tip the scales at 30 plus pounds.

Thanks to a well-developed sense of smell, taste and hearing, carp can flourish in water too polluted support many other species of fish.  They  use their senses to find its food and warn of predators in water with nonexistent visibility.  They do affect water quality through the turbidity they create in rooting up bottom sediments as they search for food. 

During the summer, carp migrate into coves at first light. They swim into the cooling shallow water to feed.  Coves with partially submerged brush and a wide-open shoreline are an attractive habitat.  

Carp get so involved in the feeding that their tail and dorsal fins often stick out of the water.  It is the sight of those protruding fins that start the bowfisherman’s adrenaline going strong. 

In the midday sun, carp retreat to the shade of a shoreline with vegetation.  By cruising along this cover, the bowfisherman can spot the carp resting.  The action here has to be quick.  The sound from a boat or a sudden shadow will send them to deep water with the wave of their tail.  

For the hunter/angler to catch carp in the shallows he must be serious in his stalk.  This can help hone stalking skills dulled by a winter of in activity following deer season.  It is vital to move slowly and quietly along the shore avoiding casting a shadow on the water.  It helps to maintain a low profile too. 

Another way to locate carp is to set up ambush points, wait for fish to swim past and wait for any movement that is within shooting range.  With this technique it is easier to keep shadows off the water and to shoot from concealed locations so as not to be spotted by the fish. 

Bowfishing gear is simple and inexpensive.  Traditional archers limit themselves to longbows or recurves.  Some will even insist on using wood arrows.  Traditional archers do not use sights or releases that are so popular with the modern archer.  They shoot with their fingers holding the string and use a style of shooting called instinctive. 

An instinctive shooter looks at his target not the sight on his bow.  His shooting consists of drawing and releasing as soon as he is at full draw.  It might even be called snap shooting. 

Bowfishing kits, with instructions, can be purchased in most sporting goods and archery stores.  

The kit usually contains, a solid fiberglass fishing arrow with fishing point.  The fishing point has a barbed point with reversible or removable point.  The arrow is solid fiberglass so that the heavier weight which helps it slice through the water.  The fletching, if any, is made of rubber or vinyl.  Fletching is not important because the shooting range is usually short and the arrow is too heavy to expect pinpoint accuracy. 

Another item in the kit is the bowfishing reel and line.  For the traditional archer this will usually be one that tapes to the bow or one that screws into a stabilizer insert.  The line feeds from the bow to the arrow.  The arrow is shot from the bow and the line follows.  The arrow is retrieved by winding the line back on the reel.  The line is usually made of a braided Dacron. 

With a bright sun it is a good idea to have a pair of polarized sunglasses to help cut the glare.  They also help the angler to see underwater targets.  When shooting underwater targets, one must be sure to compensate for the refraction of light rays.  

To see how this works, one need only fill a bathtub at home with water and place a broomstick into the water as if it were an arrow.  The broomstick appears to bend at the point where it enters the water.  It is this bending of light rays that makes underwater objects appear to be somewhere they are not.

In bowfishing, a good rule is to allow about one inch for every six feet of distance, and one inch for every foot of depth.  If a fish is 12 feet away and one foot deep, aim three inches low.  With a little practice, one will master this ability to shoot low without working out the math.

Some other items that are good to have but not absolutely necessary are a pair of hip boots for wadding and a cooler for holding the fish until you can get them home to the freezer.  Yes, I said freezer.  They are good eating if properly cleaned and kept cool.

Bowfishing carp is an interesting diversion and opportunity for off season shooting.  By using traditional archery tackle the challenge is increased.   Why not give it a try?


Posted 04/01/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Bowhunting, Freshwater Fishing

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  1. hey I like your post. Have you ever tried bowfishing from a canoe? My husband and I can get into the real shallow areas which makes visabilty awesome and it’s where the fish are! I balance in the middle and he stears the boat. The only annoying part about canoe bowfishing is when the fish don’t see us because we’re so quiet and we end up running them over. Stupid fish get out of the way, but it makes a great target as there swimming away from the boat.

    • I personally have not bowfished from a canoe, But, I know people who have used that new kayak from Hobie that is a two seater. It is really neat and has lots of room to stow gear too. You can find out some info about it by clicking boat section to the left of this entry. Then just click on the Hobie stories (2). That thing is much more stable on the water than a canoe. Lot safer. Glad you like the blog hope to hear more from you in the future.

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