Bow fishing season is here! The weather is warming up and it’s time to get back outside and enjoy the outdoors.
First off let’s talk about the importance of bow fishing and why we should do it.
I live in Utah and we have a lot of carp here. Almost every body of water has carp in it. Utah Lake is located in central Utah and is one of the most popular places to bow fish. And for good reason. It holds an estimated 7.5 million carp! They are a huge problem for game fish such as largemouth bass, catfish, walleye, and bluegill. In feeding, they may destroy, uproot, disturb and eat submerged vegetation, causing serious damage to native waterfowl and fish populations. Similar to the grass carp, the vegetation they consume is not completely digested, and rots after excretion, decreasing the nutritional level of the water and causing excessive algae growth. They destroy nests of other fish and eat their eggs, reducing their numbers significantly. A typical adult female can lay 300,000 eggs in a single spawn and can easily live over 50 years.
With numbers like that they are a very invasive and devastating species to any body of water. Which is good news for those of you that want to keep your bow hunting skills in check throughout the summer on live game. In Utah you need a fishing or combination license. Please check with your states division of wildlife on bow fishing regulations. Since they are not protected there is no harvest limit, which means all the carp shooting fun you can handle!
Now let’s talk about equipment. What's the best bow fishing setup?
This is a matter of personal preference. The retriever reel from AMS is probably the most popular reel. It has no drag, no button to push, and rarely tears up. They are very quick, reliable and they come with a 200# test line. Some prefer the push button spin cast type reel. It uses the fast flight 200# line on a reel seat. It offers quick retrieves, an adjustable drag for fighting fish, and you don't have to worry about your line going everywhere. The only down side to this style is that you have to push the cast button every time you shoot. If you don’t 1 of 2 things is going to happen. 1) Your line will snap when you shoot or 2) your arrow will come flying back at you. So make sure you get in the habit of pushing that button every time. A hand wrap reel is for the beginning bow fisherman on budget, but you will probably quickly outgrow it. Any bow fishing rest will work, but the AMS Wave and Muzzy Fish Hook are the two most popular. Avoid using regular deer hunting rests, this can be dangerous and they are not designed for bow fishing. For bows, any compound or traditional bow will work. 35-55 lbs is probably the most common weight and will be very effective on any carp that comes your way.
PSE Archery produces a few bow fishing setups that come with everything you need to get started. The Wave is a compound that comes with a rest, AMS retriever pro reel, and 2 arrows and runs $380. They also make a recurve called the Kingfisher. It comes with a hand wound drum style reel that mounts on the front of the bow from Cajun Archery, a roller rest and 2 arrows and runs $150.
The most active time to shoot carp is generally the end of April till the end of June. As the water warms up the carp start to spawn and head for the warm, shallow water. This allows for some great shooting as they are easier to see and most of the time they are partly out of the water. When the spawn starts to end, focus on grassy areas along the banks as they continue to feed for the summer. Watch for ripples on the water and listen for them sucking on the surface of the water that will give away their location. Carp do spook easily so this is a great time to practice your stalking skills. Because of the way light refracts in the water always aim low. If their backs are out of the water aim about an inch to two inches below the back. When you connect get ready for a fight!! Most people do not consider them to be edible but in fact they are. Please do not leave them on the bank to rot. Although they will get eaten by foxes, coons, skunks and birds, folks don’t care to walk up on a dead, rotting carp that someone left. Utah law states that you either take them with you and dispose of them in the garbage or a dump or make sure they are dead and pop their air sack and place them back in the water where they will fill with water, sink to the bottom and be consumed by other fish.
Bow fishing is a great summer time activity to get the family out of the house, keep your bow hunting skills in check and help our water ways.