Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
Bowfishing Is Hot Summertime Fun!
Bowfishing -- Hot Summertime Fun
In all likelihood, carp very near you are active right now, inviting some seriously fun bowfishing action. I say this because I can't imagine -- besides Alaska -- where you might live without carp finning waters close to home. These exotic fishes from Asia are highly adaptable, and certainly not particular of where they call home. I've arrowed them in polluted storm drains and pristine trout rivers, in tiny drainage ditches and ocean-like reservoirs. If you aren't already familiar with a reliable carp-shooting spot I'm betting you won't have to look very hard to find a carp-shooting opportunity.
Like non-native wild hogs, carp are a bane to most, but an opportunity for sport for bowhunters across the land; allowing you to cool off from summer heat while doing your local waters a favor by thinning fish directly competing with desirable sport fish.
Bowfishing gear is pretty basic, though costs can vary greatly. Choose the most basic equipment (sufficient when shallow-water wading provide point-blank shots) or more sophisticated outfits making longer shots possible and retrieving arrows and skewered fish faster. You'll need a beater bow, bowfishing reel, heavy bowfishing arrow, barbed fishing point and polarized sunglasses to better see submerged targets. You can make this easy -- shooting from river banks or wading lake shallows -- or launch a skiff to reach places out of reach from shore.
An old compound you don't mind getting wet and muddy is in order, though metal-handled recurves better facilitate "from-the-hip" shots at fast-moving fish. Metal-handled recurves (like Hoyt's Dorado) should include taps needed to attach a bowfishing reel. This reel neatly stores and pays out line, attached to the arrow, so retrieving arrows after a miss or after a hit is possible. Options include simple and affordable drum reels (Bohning Archery) requiring hand winding, spinning reel/seat arranngements (Muzzy Products) allowing you to "fight" fish and retrieve arrows more quickly, or AMS Bowfishing's Retriever Reel, which stacks line in a bottle via rollers for smoother payout and without the need to engage a "cast" button before shooting. Fish arrows are normally solid fiberglass, with the extra weight helping penetrate high-resistant water, and hopefully scaled, boney fish. Arrows hold a barbed point to keep fish from slipping off after a hit. Again, costs vary greatly. Simple designs make removing fish more time consuming, and more expensive designs including instantly-reversable barbs following a half twist of the head body for trouble-free fish removal.
The only bit of advice left to offer is to aim beneath your target when you get that first shot. This is due to water refraction, making submerged targets seem higher in the water than they actually are. How far under depends on depth and shot angle, but after a couple of hours on the water you'll quickly get the hang of it.
But beware: Bowfishing is addictive. Your first taste will quickly bring you back for more. The fast action and close shots also makes bowfishing perfect for getting youngsters hooked on bowhunting. It's pure fun under the sun, when big-game hunts are only a distant hope.