June 5, 2014 Share

Is it Bowfishing or Fish Hunting?

Originally Published Jun 13, 2012 “From the Dock: NBC Sports

When I was a wee lad of 12 or so, my buddies and I use to stalk the banks of the Mississippi river and other waters within biking distance from home. We’d carry with us either a rod or bow, rod mostly, and target carp. Carp were plentiful back then, still are, and we’d have a ball catching them on everything from canned corn to dough balls to a gob of nightcrawlers. I didn’t use nightcrawlers that often as they were usually pecked off the hook by small bullheads and chubs, but they did offer an outside shot at smallmouth bass and suckers, so we used them occasionally.

Our methods were crude, but effective: a medium-sized hook below a 1/2 to 3/4-ounce sinker. Since we often fished with second-hand casting reels that back then were almost impossible to cast without backlashing, we used the heavier sinkers because they were easier to throw (after ample slack was pulled from the reel).

We switched to bow-and-arrow in later spring after the cottonwoods bloomed. In the stretch of river we fished, the water was often covered in white from the trees and carp would feed heavily on the floating “cotton” where they were vulnerable to kids with a recurve bow, a heavy string and a heavy fiberglass arrow. My biggest bow-carp back them was close to 25 pounds, a giant for the waters we fished.

Bowfishing has come a long way since then, with major improvements in gear. Companies like AMS, Bohning, Muzzy and Cajun all offer superb products for bowfishermen and women (daughter Maddie just purchased her first bowfishing outfit). It shoots well and she has never once had an issue with the arrow coming back because of a string tangle.

Unquestionable, nightfishing is very effective. The most successful bowfishermen have specially-designed boat with a raised shooting platform and powerful lights run by an on-board generator. Daytime shooting is also effective, but I’ve found that carp as difficult to get close to in a boat, especially when they are in vegetation and shallow. Many successful bowfishermen I know hunt carp in much the same fashion as deer hunters: they find a place carp congregate or travel by naturally and simply wait for their opportunity to shoot.

My European friends find it difficult to understand that hunting carp is accepted here. Yet, given the negative impacts that carp have on both native fish and the waters in which they live, reducing their numbers even by a little is a positive in my book.