by Andrea Bailey
Bass Pro Shops Altoona Associate
I’ve been fishing since I was a little girl, when my dad would take me. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors – camping, fishing, even landscaping in my other job. Fishing is great, but now I’m hooked on bowfishing.
A friend started me in it last year. I tagged along, following him around the shore, learning and trying my hand at it. I immediately fell in love…with bowfishing. I went almost every day during the spring and summer of 2014. In just a few months, I shot a lot of carp. I’m no expert, by any means, but hopefully I can inspire other people, especially young women, to give it a try.
What is it about bow fishing? It’s exciting, it’s competitive, and it combines two great outdoor activities…hunting and fishing. Many people who bowfish use a boat, but I fish from shore. I’d like to try fishing from a boat this year, but I’m pretty sure I’ll like the shore more.
Why the shore? It’s the hunting aspect. Being in the elements, using your senses and ability to “hunt” the carp. Being quiet, stalking along the shore, wading through water, the challenge of trying to get to different places where you know the carp may be hiding. That’s part of the fun and part of the challenge…challenges like crawling out on branches that are half way in the water, then falling in and scaring away all the fish!
The tree branch incident was just one lesson reinforced in my first year – be careful! Other lessons, challenges, and tips?
- Look for brushy areas, where the carp can hide. But, beware of shooting into those brushy areas under water – I shot an arrow into a tree and couldn’t get it out.
- Shoot lower than you think. Shoot 6 inches below every foot the fish is under the water.
- Watch for breaches and look for large rings from the breaches to know where the fish is. This was one of my biggest challenges in learning about bowfishing - trying to decipher which rings were from carp.
- Be aware and go slowly. Walking on the shore you need to be quiet and keep your shadow off the water. If you’re not aware, the fish won’t be there. You will scare them off with your shadow or sound. I really had to adjust to going slowly along the shore – you have to go into stalk mode.
- Spring is the best time and after a rain is my favorite - when water is up and there may be some light flooding. But, use common sense and be careful – always be aware of the weather and water conditions. Don’t push it.
- Invest in some good waterproof boots – keep your feet dry.
It’s not a huge investment to get started. I use an AMS package that included everything. This year, I’ve already invested in an arm guard, wax for my bow strings, a new arrow with four barbs, and some polarized sunglasses. The better to spot those carp!
With my brief bowfishing experience so far, comes that general good feeling of doing something for the environment and encouraging others. Some of my friends will ask, “Why bowfish, when you don’t eat them?” So, I’m able to educate them about the invasive fish taken in bowfishing and the effect they can have on our waters. Likewise, I invited friends along and posted about my bowfishing on my social media pages…quite a few have started, or want to start, this year. I also explain there are some people who choose to eat carp and I often give my harvest to those folks.
This year, I look forward to venturing away from my usual locations and trying new venues. You won’t find me standing at the fence below a dam just pointing and shooting…you’ll find me walking the shores of rivers and creeks, doing my part to rid them of invasive species.
One of the biggest challenges I face? That guy - and there's always one or more - who says, “I can’t believe you bowfish. That’s really cool.”
It’s a bit annoying…I know they're saying it because I’m female. But, I also take it as a compliment.
It is cool – I fish like a bowfisherwoman.