Bow fishing is growing in popularity – Daily Local

By Tom Tatum

My awareness and understanding of bow fishing – a sport that combines archery equipment with fishing tackle – was boosted earlier this month when I was introduced to Nick Sampson at of the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association annual conference.

Sampson, from Halifax, Pennsylvania, is an avid follower of the sport of bowfishing, not only as a hobby but also as a business, and his company offers bowfishing charters in both freshwater and saltwater surroundings.

In freshwater, Sampson focuses on invasive species like northern snakehead and Asian carp while in Maryland, where he also has a home in Ocean City. He says interest in bow fishing really increased when Asian carp, mainly bighead carp and silver carp, took over US waters.

Not only do these fish pose a threat to native species by outcompeting them and harming the fishing industry, but the silver carp, famous for jumping high out of the water when a motorboat passes by, poses serious threats to the safety of boaters on infested roads. lakes and rivers with many reports of boaters injured or even knocked off their boats jumping carp. While Asian carp have become widespread in the Midwest, particularly in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, they have yet to gain a foothold here in the Northeast.

Currently, bow fishing here in Pennsylvania is limited to catching carp, suckers, and catfish. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission imposes a daily limit of 50 fish on these three species combined for bow anglers, but does not allow the invasive snakehead to be taken due to concerns that bow anglers may not be able to accurately identify this species and may shoot the native bowfin by mistake.

On the freshwater bodies of Sampson’s other stomping ground, Maryland, you are allowed to bowfish for non-game and invasive species of fish, but not game fish. I was surprised to learn that, according to Sampson, in saltwater Maryland you can bowfish for everything except shark and rockfish as long as you follow the regulations that apply to anglers. traditional line.

“We shoot a lot of rays when we were in salt water,” Sampson said. “Other popular targets include skates, cownose rays and flounder.”

Obviously, when shooting straight down or at sharp angles in the water, there really is no “vaulting” in this version of archery. The tricky part is compensating for refraction, a kind of optical illusion that makes underwater objects appear in places where they don’t.

“Refraction is a challenge and can cause you to shoot low and miss,” Sampson confessed.

When I asked him the maximum depth of a target fish, he explained to me that he would not shoot deeper than five feet.

And like the vast majority of bow anglers, Sampson said only about twenty percent of his trips take place during the day, while the other 80 percent are all nighttime adventures.

While specialist archery boats are designed with the sport in mind, the archery equipment used is also modified. While you can convert any bow into a tool for bowfishing, Sampson prefers to use state-of-the-art gear specifically designed for a sport he says “was once a passion that has now become an obsession for me”.

First of all, a bowfishing bow should be equipped with an adjustable drag reel, line, a specialized holder that helps feed the line, and heavy fiberglass arrows with barbed heads that can effectively penetrate water at depths of up to five feet or more.

When I spoke with Sampson it was on the eve of his taking delivery of a brand new state of the art 26 foot bow fishing boat and he was excited at the prospect of taking a group of outdoor writers (including yours) on an upcoming bow fishing trip. I’ll let you know how it goes if and when it actually happens.

Sampson, who competes in bowfishing tournaments nationwide, also publishes Bowfishing Magazine, a free digital publication that you can find online at For more information or to view a bow fishing charter, call Sampson at 570-971-6948.

**** Tom Tatum is the outside columnist for the MediaNews group. You can reach him at [email protected]

Earnest A. Martinez