Posted by: John Mueller on May 24, 2012
Page 2 of 2

If you have access to a boat, your options for bowfishing are tremendous. For example, the water behind dams is a favorite spot for Bighead Carp, an invasive species which escaped captivity and is now taking over many river systems. When food is plentiful, these fish can grow to monster proportions. As they filter feed for plankton, they can sometimes be spotted cruising near the water’s surface. Caution must be used to get within shooting range as they are afraid of boat noises such as trolling motors and depth finders. The Bighead is a favorite target for many of those who bowfish because of the tremendous size they can reach. The world record Bighead for bowfishing is 92.5 lbs., taken by Darin Opel near Alton, IL. That is the extreme, but many 50-60 pound fish are commonly shot every year. You will definitely have a fight on your hands if your arrow sinks into one of those monsters.


Darin Opel with his 92.5 lb Bighead Carp from the Mississippi River.

Yours truely wih a nice Bighead although a skinny one.

Another option for those bowfishing from a boat is the airborne Silver Carp. The Silver Carp is another Asian Import that escaped captivity and is now taking over the rivers in the Midwest. They look similar to the Bighead, but have a peculiar habit when startled by boat motors---they rocket out of the water skyward, sometimes clearing the surface by 10 or more feet! It can be fun trying to hit these airborne fish, but it can dangerous to both the shooter and those in the boat. I have personally seen times when there are literally hundreds of fish in the air at once. This can make it nearly impossible to keep your eyes on all of them. As a result, one is sure to end up slapping you in the head if you’re not careful. Many people wear helmets when going after High-Flying Silvers. If you’re looking for a hot-spot for these fish, the Illinois River is one of the best. In fact, there are individuals offering guided bowfishing outings near Peoria, IL for Flying Silver Carp.

You can see a few airborne Silver Carp in this picture.

Boats for Bowfishing
There are as many different styles of bowfishing boats as there are of those who bowfish. We all have our own idea regarding what the perfect bowfishing boat should be. This typically gets reduced to what we can afford at the time. My personal boat is an old Lowe 16’ Jon boat with a 25hp Mercury on the back and a Motor Guide 60# trolling motor mounted on a raised platform in the front. This vessel carries halogen lights under the platform and a generator located mid-ship.
The raised platform helps to increase the shooters angle when looking into the water for fish. The greater the angle----the less glare you have reflecting back at you. The lights and generator make bowfishing at night much easier; which can often be the best time to bowfish; especially on waters that have a lot of daytime traffic. Once things calm down on the water, the fish come out from hiding, making them easy targets. The noise from the generator and the lights don’t spook carp, gar or buffalo fish, but the bigheads won’t tolerate all the noise.


My 16" Lowe all set up for Bowfishing.

One of the latest trends in bowfishing boats is to mount a hand operated fan above the boat and use it as the trolling motor. You can access much shallower water using the fan versus a conventional trolling motor. The fan also doesn’t “muddy up” the water like a trolling motor; making it easier to see the fish.


Fan powered boats are the new trend in Bowfishing.

Know the Rules
Before you head out bowfishing, be sure to check your local regulations. These vary greatly from state to state as well as lake to lake or river to river. Some species are legal in one area while off limits in others. And, some lakes do not allow bowfishing at all. For more info and additional bowfishing links check out the Illinois Bow Fishers Webpage.

As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, if you give bowfishing a try you will be hooked on a wonderful sport that offers a much needed break from the spring/summertime monotony. Before you know it, the leaves will be changing and treestands will be hung. But, for now, don’t be afraid to look beneath the surface for your next game target.

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