Hunting and fishing have always been two distinct activities, each offering the possibility of living in wide open spaces and attracting a loyal clientele of enthusiasts.
But there are those who are not satisfied with just one or the other. They are bow fishermen. And they unite a passion for archery with a passion for fishing.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Brooke Benham, an avid bowfisher from Castle Rock.
The sport is relatively new to Colorado, but interest is growing and there are plenty of places to test your abilities. Much like pole and line fishing, you can shoot from the shore or from a boat.
Benham says both types offer unique challenges.
A boat provides far more access to any body of water, and the freedom to roam an entire lake means you’ll find more areas to photograph.
It doesn’t take much to get into the sport of bow fishing. And it’s cheap. You will need a fishing license and equipment.
“Go to any sporting goods store where the initial purchase (bow, reel, arrow, and tips) is quite affordable and costs around $165,” says Benham.
With bow fishing, it’s not as simple as seeing a fish, shooting a fish. The fish you’re allowed to shoot are non-native invasive species that harm the environment and “outnumber any game fish in the lakes,” says John Lindell, vice president of the Colorado Bowfishing Association.
If you want to catch a large amount of fish, go out early in the morning or after dusk when the waters are cooler, as with regular fishing.
Invasive species, like carp, are “very sensitive to sound, and the colder the water, the slower and more lethargic they are,” Lindell says.
“You’ll see them sunbathing in the morning with their mouths sucking in water, the ‘carp call’ as I like to call it,” says association president Justin Turnbell. .
Bowfishers hunt in the same areas as most anglers, areas with lots of brush and trees.
“The deep brush is carp heaven,” says Lindell. “There are plenty of insects and shelter from birds that want to eat them.”
Benham lists the Platte River and Chatfield Reservoir among his favorite spots for bow fishing.
“Any lakes, reservoirs or ponds, but not at higher elevations because you’re less likely to find carp,” she says.
There’s no limit to the number of invasives you can shoot, but you’ll need some luck.
One Saturday morning, three members of the Colorado Bowfishing Association descended on Pueblo Reservoir and only managed to shoot a single fish. A week later, on a lake near Fort Morgan, the trio went out and shot 75 carp.
The fish aren’t that tasty, but bow fishing is a fun sport and serves a necessary purpose by protecting fish like trout, walleye, pike, and catfish.
Turnbell has advice for anyone considering trying bowfishing: “Warning, it’s addicting.”