Not many people know about a sport called bowfishing. When people think ofbowfishing, they think that you must lose a lot of arrows because the archer hasno way of retrieving his or her arrow after launching it off its rest. This is avery big misconception in a very misunderstood and mysterious sport. As mostpeople don’t understand about bowfishing, then don’t know that mostbowfisherman rely on the darkness of night to cover them as the approach theirprey.
A specially rigged bowfishing boat with archer aboard the pvc platform, asthe floodlights gaze onto the water’s edge, the archer draws back his arrowand settles its sights on the unsuspecting Asian carp, the archer releases thearrow to hear a sound only too familiar as the arrow breaches the soft skin ofthe spawning carp. After the adrenaline ceases, the archer reels in his prizefor the evening. Only a true bowfisherman can feel the power it has to know thathe controls the lives of the prey he takes. This feeling can’t be described inwords, but can be felt with the utmost power and audacity of a life being savedor taken. Bowfishing is a sport that requires both hunting and fishing skills aswell as knowledge of each sport.
Bowfishing is similar to hunting because ofit’s use of the archer’s favorite weapon, the bow. The bow is considered tobe one of the most difficult weapons in any hunter’s arsenal. Along withit’s light weight and easy maneuverability, it also boasts an extremechallenge to whomever uses it to it’s full potential. Whether you decide towalk along the primal side and use a traditional bow or a recurve bow, youachieve the most out of your sport without using sights, a rest or release.
Orif you choose a more modern and faster method of archery, you will achieve asense of accomplishment with either of these great weapons. A traditional bow ismostly what the Indians used when they made their first movement to this greatland. It is a straight “stick” that is slightly bent back towards thestring. A recurve bow is a more modern version of the traditional bow.
It ismassively bent at the end toward the riser or rest, and when at full draw, thetips of this bow are in line with the string. Upon the other hand, you couldmove up with technology and acknowledge the existence of a compound bow. Thecompound bow in many people’s minds have upgraded the sport of bowfishing to amore technological standpoint. Although compound bows have been around for quitea while, over the last three years, they have boosted themselves to anunbelievable height. From back in 1975, the average speed of a bow was about 175feet per second. About a year ago, I bought a magazine the showed the emphasisand excitement of the “new bows” of which claimed a whooping 300 feet persecond.
These days, in the recent magazines, have showed new and recent studieson a 400 feet per second bow. These technologies can be measured in many ways totheir successes and failures. The positive side to a bow this fast is that yourarrow can get to your target quicker without spooking it. The negative side isthe infamous question: Why would anyone require that much speed? There is reallyno other answer but the fact of “bragging rights” and that you don’t spookyour target.
In this sport of bowfishing, you use an average of 75 to about 150feet per second, depending on where you are fishing. If you decide to let yourprey reside in a more of a pond setting or a small lake, then you need lessspeed. If you require quick shooting in a big lake or the ocean, then you shoulddecide on more speed, because if you decide on slower arrow release then youhave a chance of missing your target. My current bowfishing bow is set at about100 feet per second, because I maintain target by shooting at small rough fishsuch as: carp, catfish, gar, and small turtles. Bowfishing is similar to fishingin the respect of your target. Along with it being similar because of fish, italso maintains a similarity to the reel that it uses.
The tools of this tradelie in the number of items you can fit on your bow. It also depends on whichtype of bow you are using. If you shoot a recurve or traditional bow, then yourequire less items. With a traditional or recurve bow the archer has lost theuse of sights, a rest, and other implements. A compound uses the implements suchas: sights, a bowfishing rest, and optional release, and a nock saver.
Therequired items on a bowfisherman’s list should be as follows: a custombowfishing arrow, a special cabling system, special bowfishing string, and areel. Without any one of these items, a bowfisherman would be not be able tocomplete his art. The arrow is one of the most important items on the archer’slist, it is the single most important thing in the sport of bowfishing. It islike a normal arrow in looks, but when broken down it is made of fiberglassinstead of graphite or aluminum. One end of the arrow is similar to regularbowhunting, that is of course, the nock. A nock is a plastic piece that is gluedto the end of the arrow and has a notched end, of which holds the arrow on thebow cable or bow string.
At the other end of the arrow is tip that contains twostraight barbs, which keeps the fish from coming off the arrow while the fish isbeing played. After the fish is played, the archer can, on some types of tips,turn the end of the tip which releases the barb’s straightness. As thishappens it lets the barbs point upward, and the archer can then push the fishoff the arrow without much resistance. As it’s not required by some archers,but is next to the most important for others, is the cabling system for anarrow.
This contains the “life support” of the arrow. I firmly believe thatwithout this system, you would lose a lot of arrows, unfortunately I know thisfrom several personal experiences. The cabling system consists of a stainless800 pound test steel wire, 2 beads, a swivel, and two crimps. The wire slidesthrough two pre-drilled holes in the arrow, then wrapped around the arrow’sshaft, the into the crimp, and then crimped. After sliding the bead, the swivel,and the other bead onto the arrow, the wire slides through the other pre-drilledhole and then again crimped. The archer’s string is then tied onto the otherend of the swivel, completing the cabling rig.
This allows the tension not torely on the string, but the cable, and also it allows the string to move alongthe arrow without friction. The next very important part of the archer’s listis the string. The string comes in a variety of strengths, mostly for bowfishing,an average of 300-400 pound test braided line. This is used for mostapplications, although when fishing for 150 pound alligator gar in southernTexas, you would need around a 600 to 900 pound test line.
An option on stringis color, a lot of bowfisherman prefer a neon colored string. For ease of sightand for finding an arrow that has snapped it’s cable, it is a wise choice forneon colored line. A new string has just been developed for night bowfisherman,it has a fluorescent “glow” when a black light is applied to the tip of thestring. The last, but certainly not least important, is the reel, there areseveral types of reels, the drum reel, which is a cylinder that the string wrapsaround it and feeds off in the same manner.
The second type is the AMS retrieverreel, it is one of the most sophisticated reels, it uses a finger brake and”fishing” type crank. It is made especially for bowfisherman. The third kindis the Zebco 808 or the 818 models, these are regular fishing reels, but alsodouble as bowfishing reels. They are mounted on a 12 or 18 inch rod the isscrewed into the stabilizer hole of the bow. This rod and reel combination isthe closest related to the sport of fishing.
The last method of using a reel isthat it doesn’t use a reel at all, but is just to lay the string on the groundand hopeing that it doesn’t tangle when the arrow is released or get caught onan exterior appendage of your body. Water diffraction is one of the worstproblems a bowfisherman can encounter. Water diffraction is what occurs wheneversomething is in the water. If you stick a rod into the water, as soon as the rodenters the water it gives off the appearance that it’s bent. This is the waterdiffraction at work.
Especially when night bowfishing, water diffraction takesplace, because most of night bowfishing is when the target is several inches orfeet underwater. Since the target is underwater, then the archer must decide howdeep is the target. Although it may look on the surface it can be several inchesunderwater. The formula for bowfishing is for every inch underwater the targetactually is, the archer should aim at least 3 inches below the target to defeatwater diffraction. If an archer can accomplish this skill within seconds ofsight of the target, the bowfisherman can start to consider himself well on theway to mastering the sport.
Most bowfisherman seek targets as small as carp andgar, but a lot of archers seek bigger challenges. Alligator gars, rays, skates,sharks, alligators, and several big predators maintain a large portion ofbowfisherman’s time. In some remote areas of Texas, videos have arisen ofbowfisherman landing 150 pound alligator gars. These massive creatures are takenby the initial arrow of the archer.
This arrow is very different from mostarrows, as it has a break-away float or jug that detaches from it’s positionon the bow. This floats along the top of the water as the large creature glideson the bottom of the river or lake. As the archer nocks a second arrow, when thecrew members pull up the creature to the top of the water, the archer lands asecond and possibly a third arrow into the creature before it’s decent intothe water. This process maintains for sometimes hours, waiting for the creatureto tire and raise to the surface close enough to the boat so that a crew membercan put a gaff into it’s lower jaw and pull it’s massive body onto the boat. Sometimes this has come with a very heavy price.
In one instance, an archer hadseven arrows into about a 175 pound alligator gar, and as they tried to pull thefish onto the boat, the sheer weight of the fish overturned the boat andeverything was lost except for the lives of the crew and the fish. This can be avery dangerous sport in it’s own right, so not all bowfishing hunts are asnice as others, there are several dangers in this sport. There are recordedinstances where bowfisherman have traveled the earth in seek of the greatalligators and crocodiles. In one of these instances, a bowfisherman had shotseveral times at 10 foot alligators with the aid of his guide.
Unfortunatly helanded as many gators as he had come with. As the guide pointed his light to a14 foot gator, the archer landed a perfect shot, but as the archer went for asecond arrow, the gator started his death roll underwater and “cranked” inthe string. This motion would have been alright, but as the float was notattached to the archer’s bow, but just sitting on the floor of the airboat,the archer had no control over his float or other equipment. As the spinningaction seemed to reel in the string on the archer’s line, he nocked a secondarrow, unaware of the danger he was in. As he was about to release his secondarrow into the beast, the line which was wrapped around the archer’s leg,tightened and jerked him into the water, but not before the shot was anchoredinto the gator’s massive head.
As some quick thinking by the hunter, hegrabbed his boot knife and cut the line loose. He grabbed the boat as a loudbang went off and the gator started his final decent to the bottom of the river,dead. As the archer looked up and saw the his guide, with smoking rifle in hand,and climbed aboard the 14 foot airboat. They pulled the massive creature aboardthe boat and went home, but never forgetting the memories of the almost fatefulnight that could have costed the bowfisherman his life. Bowfishing, as the nameimplies, is the sport of hunting and shooting at fish with a bow and arrow. Thearrow has a barbed point and is tethered to the bow with a braided line.
Whenthe arrow is fired from the bow, the line feeds out of a bowfishing reel, whichis attached to the front of the bow. When the arrow strikes a fish, the barbshold in the fish, and the fish is played by hand. Another option thebowfisherman may choose for playing fish, is an 18 inch rigid fishing pole whichholds the reel and attaches to the bow. From the small three pound carp or gar,to the 150 pound alligator gar in Texas and the sharks in south Florida,bowfishing is a sport that has no equal to the adrenaline and fun that itprovides.