I started bowfishing 35 yrs. ago with an old Herter’s 40 lb. recurve and spool. I then progressed to a Fred Bear Whitetail Hunter. The Whitetail Hunter was frustrating. Right as I was drawing down on a fish, I’d notice the line had hung on a bush 10 feet behind me or was tangled around the sights. But despite all of this, I still shot boatloads of fish while walking the Platte River and hitting the sandpits in Nebraska. I’ve since bowfished in Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho and Oregon. It’s a blast plus you’re cleaning the waterways of invasive trash fish.
Getting into bowfishing is really quite inexpensive. You can use a cheap bow, spool and fishing arrows. For clothing, a T-shirt and tennis shoes. I waded rivers and sandpits for years, but if you have a Jon boat so you’re elevated, it’s even better. So yes, it’s a cheap DIY adventure. But, if you find yourself really getting into it hang on - you’re about to meet the Carp Cartel.
Down in the south, they bowfish a lot at night, but up in Idaho where I live, I never had hunted at night. The other day I got introduced to Jacob Hyer, who along with his buddies form a group called the Carp Cartel. As I hear it, Jacob pretty much introduced night fishing in SW Idaho.
Well, one thing led to another and a couple of weeks later we met up at 7pm on night for a bowfishing trip. On this trip there would be Jacob, his wife Kacey, Brandon Shaw and myself. They’re members of the Bowfishing Association of America, which is the NRA for bowfishing. We were soon unloading on the Snake River and soon shot off upstream. After a bit, Jacob shut her down and fired up the twin 2000w Inverters. The lights then take a few seconds to warm up.
Jacob has the ultimate set-up; a 21 foot Kingfisher inboard extreme shallow Sport Jon boat with a 200 HP Mercury Optimax motor with a raised platform on the bow, lights mounted underneath the deck and a trolling motor on front. A fellow bowfisherman from Pocatello, Idaho made his lights and the water clarity determines which light bulbs he’ll use. This night the water was murky, so he chosen the High Pressure Sodium bulbs to match the stained water with the orange color from the lights. In clear water, he uses Metal Halide.
I was pumped. Jacob and Brandon were fast on the draw and Kacey could hold her own too. We’d drift by the islands and stick fish as they swam by, illuminated by the lights. We’d pick up singles, but it seemed like when we got into them it was fast shooting for everyone and of course, we had multiple hook ups at the same time. When you stuck one you went to the back of the boat and reeled them in and threw them in the 55 gallon barrel.
This was more fun than I had imagined. Ha, what’s not to love about it? Big fish, cool equipment, a beautiful night, everything was perfect. I’d gotten up at 4:30 that morning to take a couple of kids turkey hunting with Chris Collins and then ran home, packed, caught a 2-hour nap and was ready for an all-nighter. I’d been pre-warned - when the Carp Cartel gets on a roll, it’d probably be daylight before they quit.
Brandon got the largest fish, a 29 pounder and Kacey got the smallest, probably about two (I lied, I told her that wouldn’t go in the article). I tagged a couple of 24 poundish fish and we had a great trip. Of course all three of them shot circles around me, but I had a blast. No doubt, bowfishing at night is the ticket. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always bowfished during the day. This could be addictive. I may sell my house, buy a bowfishing boat and live on the river!
Even though these guys are fanatics, they were super patient with me and I learned a lot. I’ve always used a spool, but Brandon took time and showed me the ropes of how they do it. He cautioned me to be constantly hitting the release on my reel so I didn’t have a bounce back. I had one last summer and they’re not fun. He likes to keep the line tight, that way when he draws back, if it has engaged, then it will hang up and the arrow will fall off and you’ll know it. He recommends using the Muzzy reel that has a flip switch instead of a push button and then it can’t re-engage.
My group of instructors like using the arrows where you tie on back, because if the string does manage to get wrapped up, it will break the arrow off and not come back at the shooter. You also get better arrow flight and they help with fish removal on full pass-through shots. But I’ve gotten used to using the sliding nocks the last two years, so that’s what I used on this trip.
We were shooting upstream at about 40 mph and ran up on a submerged sand bar. Jacob prewarned me to bring waders because if we got stuck, we’d all have to get out and push. Of course, they’ve been bowfishing the river since January, so they’ve hit some really frigid water, but this time the water wasn’t too cold so we’d just jumped out and pushed. In the course of the night we got stuck a half dozen times, none as bad as the first one, but with all adding to the excitement.
Well, Jacob finally decided it was time to call it a night. I’d had a blast. It had been everything I’d hoped for. These guys were good, but more importantly had been patient and deferred plenty of shots to me.
Here’s the personal gear list:
- Mission Craze II bow with Muzzy arrows, tipped off with a Muzzy reel and rod. Most bow fishermen don’t use sights, but I put an old sight on.
- ThermaCELL mosquito unit, but it was cool enough that we didn’t need it.
- XGO under garments. I love their gear.
- Head lamp and flashlight.
Bowfishing is a simple sport if you want it to be. So the only other thing that I had to bring was deer sausage and cornbread.
If you want to gear up like them, here’s the equipment that they were using.
- Bows: Jacob-Oneida Osprey, Brandon-Alpine Make, Kacey-Bear Apprentice III.
- Reels: Muzzy XD with TuffLine XP 200 lb. test and THE Shoot Thru rods.
- Arrows: Fiberglass with Gene Davis 4 barb points.
- Arrow Rest: Jacob-Bowfishing extreme aluminum osprey rest, Brandon & Kacey-both use Muzzy Fish Hook.
What a great night we’d had. Thanks to the Carp Cartel guys and gals.