The art of bowfishing was a sport I first picked up in the summer of 2009. It is shooting specific fish with a bow and arrow, with a special reel attached so you can reel them in.
In Illinois you are pretty limited on what you can hunt with archery. Deer and turkey are only the specific animals….but fish has always been in there as well.
The only fish you can take are different species of carp, suckers, and gar. Mostly fish that anglers despise. Bull frogs and snapping turtles can be taken during their regulated seasons.
Bowfishing for carp is a year round event, however only the summer is the best time to do it. The place I go to is a little spillway near Lake Bloomington, Illinois. I started with nearly no idea on what I was doing and it took me all summer to land an arrow into any fish.
It is a hard sport to master. Every summer I have to retrain my eye to find the spot where I shoot a fish. I do not use sights on this bow and it can be incredibly difficult. First you must spot the fish in the water with a pair of polarized sunglasses. These take the glare of off the water. You aim at the fish and try to shoot directly below it. What we see in the water is just a reflection of where the fish should be, called refraction.
So you never actually aim at the fish you are seeing, just under him where he is truly hiding.
A couple years of experience into it led to the Asian Carp invasion. Apparently these fish were brought over and were put in private ponds where they would eat all the greenery. However, when the ponds flooded into the river, they got out and they reproduce at a crazy fast pace. They flooded the rivers and soon branched off into creeks and other streams, which led them invading the very place where I bowfish the most.
I couldn’t have been happier.
I introduced a couple of my best friends Jon Strupek and Matt Wagner to the sport that same year….and Jon made a video of us showing the events.
We caught 104 in two afternoons with only our bows and a couple gigs.
Some of my other best friends, like Amanda Kirchner have also joined in at times. For this summer I am teaching Amanda all the tricks.
I know there can be a lot of hate towards the sport, but I do it for trophy and food, mainly food. Carp can be delicious if prepared for like a grilled salmon. (There are ways around all the bones and the dreaded mud vein)
Some people refer to this as a “redneck fishing” But I cannot express to you how much I hate that term. I jumped into this activity in this area well before any of the local “rednecks” dove in. On top of that, I enjoy it for the love of the outdoors, not for some “redneck lifestyle.” I love hiking and exploring, following trails and seeing animals and nature all together. Since I mainly just bank fish I find myself surrounded by the outdoors quite a bit and I find myself at peace a lot of the times. On top of that, I am probably better than some of these “rednecks” anyways. I love archery and fishing! It is the perfect combo for people like me.
“Side note” The bandanna is to keep the sweat from fogging up my sunglasses.
If you ever choose to try it out, please read the rules and regulations and practice safety while using your bow. Bring some friends and have a great time!
Tyler Wayne (T.F.B.)