Wade-In Bowfishing Opportunities Abound


I've bowfished from glittery bass boats, roaring jet boats, shallow-draft flats boats, air boats, canoes, kayaks, surf boards, float tubes and with scuba tanks on my back (if you can call spearfishing bowfishing), but have to admit I'd really rather conduct this sort of business on my own two feet. Wade-in bowfishing is the very essence of what this laid-back, redneck pastime is all about.

Of course, 98 percent of this wading business involves carp. Not only because they're our most common "trash fish," but also because during the spring spawn (happening right now, by the way, on a water near you!) they invade shallow waters to make themselves readily available to those willing to get their feet wet and sneakers muddy. When waters hit 62 to 64 degrees, carp frolic in shallow still-water coves and sloughs, drainage ditches and storm drains, or run across river shoals. Hit it right and wading results in non-stop action and an arm-numbing number of shot opportunities.

No matter where you live -- save maybe Alaska or northern Canada -- it's a safe bet you have carp close at hand. Carp just aren't that picky.  I've shot spawning carp from polluted suburban storm drains flowing into city run-off ponds. I've shot them in trash-filled agricultural canals and irrigation ditches. I've shot them in muddy rivers in Texas and pristine salmon/steelhead waterways in Idaho. I look for them in lakes, reservoirs and ponds big and small, private cow tanks and northern beaver ponds.

Take a look around. Inquire at local conservation offices or sporting good stores. My bet is you have carp close at hand.

I've also been on at least two northern spring bear hunts when sucker shooting proved out of this world. We'd seek a gravel shoal on a major river during those spring dates, with three or four archers literally filling pickup beds while pass-shooting spawning suckers. Bears gobbled them like popcorn. 

One of my favorite wading targets any time I get near saltwater is stingrays (not manta rays, which are protected). I've shot stingrays in Florida (on the Atlantic and Gulf sides) and Texas (once in Baja, Mexico). Rays are fond of any area with a soft muddy/sandy bottom, normally shallow lagoons or marshes. You'll need to don a pair of neoprene "ray boots" to protect feet against sharp oyster beds, and in the event you accidently step on a ray, which can result in a painful slashing.

The best way to avoid this painful experience is shuffling feet along the bottom while moving, bumping embedded rays and sending them on their way instead of treading on them to elicit a defensive counterattack. You need a sharp eye to spot rays that have "fluffed" into the bottom, though many are discovered busily feeding and moving over the bottom hunting crabs.

The best thing about wading is it's cheap and accessible to all. Just slip into some ratty sneakers and grunge garb, grab your bowfishing rig and go!