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Bow knows fishing

August 17, 2008
Bill Harding

Back in the 1960s Pete Cope and I decided to try bowfishing for carp and our equipment was primitive by today's standards. Of course, my young readers probably think anything from the 60s was primitive and likely a good subject for an archeological dig.

It might surprise many that our bows did not have various wheels and cables and that a 50-pound draw weight was still 50 pounds at full draw. There was no break over point to a lesser weight in those days. Our bows were solid fiberglass and arrows were cedar. I doubt that any two arrows flew the same as they seldom matched. The equipment matched the budget of two guys raising kids and paying mortgages.

The bowfishing equipment was homemade. My reel was a Maxwell House coffee can with the top and bottom cut out. I screwed a piece of wood inside the rear of the can and attached it to my bow by wrapping electrical tape around the wood and the bow. We didn't even have duct tape back then. It was certainly not fancy, but it worked.

To make a fishing arrow we drilled a hole at an angle into a field point on our wooden arrow. A finishing nail was driven into this hole. Then the nail head was cut off and the back of the nail was sharpened with a file. This was meant to keep the arrow from pulling out of the carp. Another hole was drilled through the point to attach the line, which was just heavy fishing line. I don't remember if we ever shot anything with these jury rigged outfits, but we had a lot of fun at little expense.

Sometime later I bought a Bear Kodiak recurve. I still had no pulleys or cables, but the Kodiak was of laminated construction and a top of the line bow for that time period. I even bought a fishing reel for it, which was not much more sophisticated than my coffee can.

When compound bows came on the scene I hung the Kodiak in the basement and began to shoot some fancy equipment with all sorts of pulleys and cables. Arrows now were aluminum and carefully matched as to weight and length. I read books on tuning a compound bow and let the old recurve gather dust. I even bought a crossbow. I was now thoroughly modern.

Recently, however, the carp population here at the lake got out of hand. They really muddied up the shallower bays and rooted around in the bass spawning areas. We decided to thin down the school. A carp fishing contest helped, but barely made a dent in the population so the sportsmen's club decided to hold a bowfishing contest next year.

It had been a long time since I had bowfished and almost as long since I had handled the Kodiak, but reliving the old days sounded like fun so I had a new string and rest put on the bow and attached the Bear line holder. There are better reels available, but I wanted to do this as simply as possible. I did replace my Muzzy arrow with an AMF arrow with a plastic slider.

The plastic slider keeps the line ahead of the arrow rest to help prevent the line from catching on anything. Having an arrow snap back at me is not my idea of fun. While there is not much for the line to catch on with a recurve, I would consider the slider even more of a necessity with a compound bow.

Bowfishing is not like, and excuse the pun, shooting fish in a barrel. Carp can disappear if they see the slightest movement and there is a lot to deal with, including light refraction. The carp is not where he appears to be and if you shoot directly at it the arrow will go over it. A good rule is to shoot at the carp's belly.

Carp are an imported species and really have no natural enemies. Not many people consider them for table fare. That means they can quickly overpopulate a body of water and drive out more desirable species. Bowfishing and fishing with bait is the best way to keep the carp population under control without disturbing other species.

I never advocate the complete eradication of any species, but until someone comes up with a delicious recipe for carp fillets, it will be up to anglers and archers to help control their numbers. In the meantime, I'll keep practicing for next spring's bowfishing tournament.



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