Bowfishing on Idaho’s Snake River | Catch carp, sucker
As we motored down the Snake River in the twilight of a 100-degree summer night, I looked at my companions, Caleb and Randal, and smiled.
“Archers!!” I cried over the hum of the jet engine. “Wide!!!”
Maybe it was the delicious burgers Captain Tim Parrish gave us before the game, or maybe it stemmed from my affinity for medieval TV shows, but I was particularly excited for this trip – a archery adventure with Captain Tim and bow fishing expert Matt Carlson of Hammett Valley Fishing Adventures. I hadn’t shot an archery since the Boy Scouts, but I was ready to try this unique method of fishing for the first time.
Five miles upriver, Matt turned on the boat deck lights. He gave us safety tips and instructions on how to use our equipment. The Vader Bowfishing Carbon Saber bows were fitted with large push button reels spooled with 200 pound braided line. To shoot, you nock an arrow, press the reel button, and wait for a target to present itself.
By the time we were debriefed, the lights were warmed up. It was amazing how well they lit up the river below us – we could see the bottom in up to eight feet of water.
“These are the same lights they use in large parking lots,” Matt explained. “Except it’s 150 watts, and these are 400.”
Matt deployed a trolling motor and steered us downstream, keeping the boat above shallow water where we would have the best opportunity to shoot non-game carp and suckers.
“Sturgeon, 11 o’clock!” Tim announced.
“There’s another one!” called Matt. ” Do not pull !
“Two more over here!” Caleb shouted. “The big ones too!”
Within five minutes we spotted a dozen sturgeon up to seven feet long. Tim also guides for sturgeon, but that night seeing those underwater dinosaurs was an amazing bonus.
As I watched in the dark, a large brown shape appeared in front of us. I drew my bow and took aim, but something was wrong. When the shape appeared in the light, I saw that this “carp” was actually an underwater beaver. Very cool!
The beaver sighting was followed by dozens of muskrats. Our target fish, however, were proving difficult to spot. Several days of triple-digit heat had pushed the carp under the weeds, making it an elusive quarry.
Our rocky start continued when Matt’s trolling motor died. Unfazed, he pulled out a river pole and started pushing us down the river, gondola style.
Finally, we came across a group of non-game fish. They were mostly suckers, but we didn’t care. Soon, arrows were flying from all sides of the platform.
“Are you going to hit something?” Matt teased. “Shoot lower!”
Shooting low is crucial in bow fishing. Due to water refraction, fish are further below the surface than they appear. Matt explained this, but it definitely takes some getting used to.
In the next stretch, one of my arrows grazed a fish. One of the Calebs came back with scales on it. Finally, Caleb connected on a big sucker. Cheers and high-fives followed as we brought our first fish on board.
We continued our chariot in the moonlight. Caleb fired another sucker and we had plenty of near misses, each accompanied by ribbing from the rest of the crew. But then I spotted a big shallow carp, with a rare flank opportunity. As I fired and took aim, Tim leaned over and muttered, “Lower.” Trust me.” I nodded, pointed two thumbs down and fired. BULLSEYE!
The carp fought like mad but I soon got her to the boat and Tim hoisted her aboard. Our celebratory whoops echoed all night – most of the credit went to Tim and Matt, but it felt good to finally stick a carp.
The hours passed quickly as Matt took us down the river. We’ve taken down other fish (including another big carp that I hit between the shoulders), missed countless more, and had a lot of fun along the way. Just seeing the underwater aquarium of an illuminated Snake River was well worth the trip. Having the opportunity to learn a new type of fishing – and to log on a few lucky shots – was the icing on the cake. Tight lines!
Book your own Hammett Valley adventure!
Want to get started in bow fishing? Call Hammett Valley Fishing Adventures at (208) 585-4858 or visit www.hammettvalleyfishingadventures.com. Sturgeon, bass, crappie and fly fishing trips are also offered.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teenager. Share your fish stories, adventures and questions with him on [email protected]or visit tightlines208.com for the latest local fishing reports and upcoming course offerings.