Spring can be a confusing time for southern Minnesota sportsmen. There are so many things to do in the improving mild weather.
You can hunt delicious panfish while they stay in shallow water to spawn, or get up early and camouflage yourself in a blind to attract an eastern wild turkey, or even walk through woodlands in search of delicious earthy mushrooms like morels.
My buddies and I love all of these activities, but as soon as the winter ice dissolves into the lake water, we definitely turn to our favorite and action-packed springtime activity: bow fishing!
The very day after the ice receded from a good chunk of a local lake, my buddy Paul Ziegler and I hooked up to my stable 18-foot bowfishing-specific boat and set off into the night. freezing to entangle us with mammoth carp.
We arrived at the deserted pier half an hour after sunset and launched our boat into the serene, calm water. There was no moon and the cool air provided a clear, unfiltered view of the stars overhead and a dazzling milky way. After starting a small, quiet generator to power the 10 bright LED floodlights mounted on the boat’s railings, I slipped a foot-operated trolling motor into the water and began to slowly skim through the cattails. from the shore.
Our first action didn’t take the form of fish, but of a family of beavers busy munching on branches atop their newly constructed mud and brush den. The seemingly careless toothy creatures watched us pass and then returned to their chewing. Apparently they enjoyed ice cream as much as we did.
Twenty yards past the beaver lodge, a copper-hued aquarium of a fish pulled from the seaweed, heading for the safety of deeper waters. The carp was moving swiftly, but not fast enough to avoid Paul’s barbed fishing arrow, which he launched from his trusty 65 pond draw recurve bow as soon as he saw the fish.
The arrow connected solidly and the serenity of the night was temporarily interrupted by the crackle of Paul’s arrow as it cut through the clear water like a periscope atop a nuclear submarine.
The surging fish fought a fierce battle, but was no match for the sturdy, strong fiberglass boom and 350-pound braided fishing line attached to it. Moments later, Paul lifted the beast above the gunwale, a veritable giant carp that dragged the scales up to the 43-pound mark!
We continued chasing the gin clear spring water for a few more hours and finished our first bow fishing foray with half a dozen carp that tipped the scales past 40lbs .
Archery in Minnesota was once strictly a spring and summer affair and was limited to daylight hours only. In 2008, the Land Of Lakes Bowfishing Association, formed in 2005 by bowfishing fanatics Mark Ellenberg, Paul Ziegler and myself, introduced a bill in the Minnesota Legislature to expand the sport by changing shooting hours to 24 hours a day. This bill was passed, and a subsequent bill extending the season from the old dates from May 1 to the last Sunday in February to a continuous year-round season also successfully negotiated obstacles in the capital and passed. .
These two actions grew the sport exponentially for both day and night time bowfishers and led to an explosion in bowfishing participation. This rapid growth spurt has led to a problem that is easily solved with a little forethought and planning.
That problem is the illegal dumping of fish. You see, in Minnesota, rough cannot be released or left on the banks of waterways. Water quality experts and conservationists all agree that carp wreak havoc in lakes. Removing invasive carp goes a long way to improving the quality of the lake. Even so, they still need to be properly disposed of.
Since bowfishing is an action-packed sport where hundreds of raw fish can be caught in a single trip, we are invariably asked what we do with all those fish.
The only fish that can be caught by bowfishing in Minnesota are rough fish species like carp, buffalo, gar, and bowfin (spiny dogfish). None of these fish will ever be confused with walleye or crappie as a table dish. Besides the gar, which is actually a very good fish to eat, our other fish end up as fertilizer on a friend’s farm or given to trappers who freeze them as bait, and some are given to people who have smokehouses . Some are even dropped off at wildlife rehabilitation centers.
This is a question that anyone new to the sport needs to figure out before they hit the water in search of raw fish.
If you’re new to bow fishing, a good way to locate a genuine fish drop site is to place a Craigslist listing where you can get answers from trappers as well as hunters looking for fertilizer for fish. food plots. Also, feel free to read about disposal on the Land Of Lakes Bowfishing Association Facebook page. This is a public page, and knowledgeable members have no qualms about answering all bowfishing-related questions.
With a myriad of lakes in the Mankato area, fun bow fishing opportunities abound for everyone from children to women to grizzled outdoorsmen. Just be sure to find a suitable place to dump all the raw fish you are sure to catch in our lakes.
Mark Morrison is a hunting and fishing enthusiast who has been a freelance outdoor writer and photographer for 21 years. The Mankato resident since 1979 can be reached at [email protected]