How to Target Specific Species When Bowfishing
As a hunter, becoming familiar with the habits of the game you hunt often leads to success. Bowfishing is no different. Knowing what type of habitat to look for is key to targeting specific species of fish.
Most people here in the Midwest assume that bowfishing involves darting invasive Asian carp, which is true, but there are other species of carp and fish that can legally be caught with a bow and arrows across the United States. Some of them can be found in waters close to home, which you might not have realized. Here are four abundant fish you can target with a bow and where to find them.
1. Common carp
I can almost guarantee that you have seen common carp at least once. Maybe you caught one while catfishing or just saw them in pictures. They are easily one of the ugliest freshwater fish and widely known to be “the fish” associated with bow fishing.
A widely distributed invasive species, common carp can be found in the dirtiest and muddiest shallow waters you can find. The tiny creeks of lakes and rivers where water stagnates and mosquitoes buzz to the surface, this is where you’ll see a reddish tail flip and gaping mouth rise to the surface. Look for large branches, trees, and tall reeds that provide shelter for the fish to hide. If you know catfish habitat, you also know where common carp prefer to live.
I spent many hours wading through ankle deep mud in sneakers, shooting large yellow carp that rolled on the surface of the water during spawning. Typically, Mother’s Day weekend is when the carp begin to spawn.
Where there is one, there are many. Although spawning is the best time to target them from mid-May to late June. I found them feeding in the shallows throughout the hot days in late August.
2. Grass Carp
On my right arm I have a long scar that wraps around my wrist and stands out white against my summer tanned skin. It’s a daily reminder of shooting my biggest carp to date – a grass carp that felt like it was going to rip my arm off when I accidentally wrapped the bow fishing line around it. my wrist. A grass carp’s fight is unlike any other. They take off swimming after being shot and will easily pull you through the water and take your gear with them if you don’t leave a little slack in the line.
If you’re lucky enough to know of a pond or lake with grass carp and you’re allowed to shoot them, you’re in for a treat. Grass carp tend to get much larger than common carp because they grow at a rapid rate.
Wild grass carp usually reside in fast-paced waters with lots of cool vegetation. The main areas are at the mouth of a stream which feeds a much larger body of water, where the water is clear. Warm summer days that promote vegetation growth are the best times to search for grass carp, usually late June through August here in Ohio.
A creature of habit, the grass carp is extremely territorial and despite its wariness, it will keep coming back to the same place several times. The telltale white torpedo shape among the ripples of the river is still a dead giveaway for me.
3. Buffalo Fish (Bigmouth and Smallmouth)
Often confused with another species of carp, buffalo fish are actually suckers. They are easily distinguished from carp by the absence of barbels and the presence of the large dorsal hump.
These fish are abundant where I bowfish, and in mid-summer the shallow areas of the river are thick with triangular fins sticking out of the water. The fish are so big that you can almost cross the river on your back.
Similar to other types of suckers, buffalo prefer clear water that moves quickly. Large rivers and streams are prime territory, and they can be found in shallows eating algae and vegetation as well as deeper pools.
If you end up with a bunch of “buffs” they make a great smoked fish dip.
Read more : Bow fishing: 7 tips to help you catch more fish this summer
4. Longnose Gar
The long-nosed gar is extremely common throughout the Midwest, South, and some eastern states. They look like a modern day dinosaur and are one of my favorite fish to photograph, if not for their ferocity and uniqueness.
Stalking along the slow-moving backwaters of rivers and streams is your best bet for the gar. Their spawning is early, sometimes starting in mid-April, and there will be dozens of colorful spotted tails waving against the shores of the shallow waters. As it is later in the summer and spawning slows down, you will often see guys singly as opposed to concentrated numbers during spawning. In late summer you can usually find guys chasing schools of minnows and I’ve shot several that still had a half-eaten minnow in their jaws.
Gar can often be mistaken for a branch floating on the surface of the water. Then they’ll slowly drop back down and kick you so you don’t shoot.