Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Bow Fishing -- or how to "hunt" on water

by Naomi K. Shapiro

So you like to bow hunt, and you like to fish. But you've never been able to do both at once – well, you can, and many do – it's called "bow fishing;" and it's becoming so popular, some even call it a " sporting cult." But it's a total, screaming "blast" like you've never had before. Fun. Laughs. Great sport. AND, you're doing a lot of good for the environment.


We're going to be talking about bow fishing in Wisconsin. Again, as always, check your local areas and regs to insure that you're in compliance.

The two main species targeted are carp and suckers. These are "rough fish," and it's good for all if their populations in our rivers and lakes are controlled -- that's where bow fishing comes in.

Here are the basics – actually, bow fishing is all pretty "basic."

Equipment you'll need: A bow -- you can use whatever you have -- just make sure that it's set from 20 to 30 pounds. Nothing stronger. Arrows: Heavy fiberglas with a special bowfishing tip on it, which consists of two, two inch barbs which spring out upon striking the fish, to form a "backwards V" thereby preventing the arrow from being pulled out by any fish movement. Attach a 100 to 200 pound test, thin diameter, high strength fishing line to your arrow. You hook the line up to the arrow through a hole below the "nock" in the arrow, which is attached to a reel hooked up to your bow (there are any number of excellent bow fishing reels made – and they're not that expensive). Then there's the "boat" you'll need. Best bet is a simple Jon boat -- flat bottomed and easily maneuverable. Most bow fishing addicts (and bow fishing IS addictive!) build or buy an elevated "stand" for placement on either the front or the rear of the Jon boat. If you fish at night (we'll get into that), you'll need a set of halogen lights powered by a small generator which you'll place in the boat.

You can fish 24/7 -- both day and night. If you fish during the day, you'll move slowly around shallow water (one to three feet deep) and back bays. The carp (99% of what you'll get are carp – and they can go over 40 pounds -- with big suckers secondary) hang out in shallow, dirty, mucky water. And the action can be furious. Don't think for a moment that a big carp isn't a challenge. It is.

Lots of bow fishing addicts prefer the night time hours. It's quiet. The water is calmer. Not much wind, usually, and you'll spot a lot of critters -- which is terrific -- muskrat, beaver, raccoons, among others. You turn on your halogen lights and scout the same shallow areas. While many carp and suckers stick to deeper water during the day, they all come in shallow at night. That means you may see hundreds upon hundreds of fish. It's non-stop, until your arms feel like they're going to fall off. By the way, in Wisconsin at least, you cannot LEAVE the fish. You must take them with you. And that's OK, because many give the fish to farmers who use them as fertilizer. And many an eagle or osprey will spot them in a field and grab them. And that's all good.

When shooting fish in the water with a bow, it's a lot different than shooting something on land. There's a different angle, and the reflective traits of water mean that it's almost like seeing an illusion when you a spot a fish. If you aim right at the fish, you'll miss. They're further "down" or "away" than you think. If you aim below the fish, and allow for the difference caused by the water's light refraction, it'll be "game on." And for sure, however you'll try to follow this simple "rule," you won't -- at least initially -- and you'll miss -- until you've practiced enough to get the proper "angle" to shoot at. After you hit the fish, you just reel it in -- easier said than done, with maybe a 40-pound carp on the other end. Some old timers pooh-pooh the reel bit, and just pull the fish in hand-over-hand. Better use gloves if you do that, one quick run by the fish and your hands can be shredded by the line.



Guide Phil Schweik says that bow fishing starts as soon as ice is out, and continues throughout the year, with warm summer nights being particularly popular, echoing the guffaws and laughter of men and women who are enjoying the "best of both worlds" --hunting with a bow, while fishing, the excitement of hitting a huge carp that fights like all get-out – and ridding our waters from the overpopulation of invasive rough fish. "Win/win" all the way down the line. And Phil says that anyone who bow fishes just once, become figuratively "hooked" for life. He says he's seen this happen time and time again. 

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