As the days of spring roll on and opportunities for black bear and turkey hunting fade, we often find ourselves longing for an outdoor pursuit to keep us in the woods or on the water. If you’re like me and would rather hunt than fish, then bowfishing might be the perfect solution to help you beat the off-season blues. This month we’ll spend some time with Mark Land, bowfishing guru of Muzzy Products. This Q & A with Mark is sure to answer some of the questions that often arise when it comes to tackling big fish with bow gear.
Q) What is the basic equipment for getting started in bowfishing?
Mark – “As for the bow, pretty much anything will work. It does not need to be fancy, just usable. Old compounds or recurves work fine. They just need to be in the 40# range and above for most situations. As for the reel, anything from a simple hand wrap style, to a retriever reel or spincast with appropriate line will work. The fiberglass arrow is standard, with a good, strong point and slide or ring system for shooting on retriever and hand wrap reels, or tie-to-back arrow systems for spincast reels works fine too.
My favorite setup for bowfishing is a compound bow in the 40-50# range, with 65% letoff. I use the Muzzy Fish Hook arrow rest, Muzzy spincast reel with the 150# Tournament Spectra line. The arrow I shoot 99% of the time is Muzzy’s classic fiberglass shaft with the Quick Release Carp point on it. I use that same setup whether I am shooting little gar and carp in a lake, to alligator gar in LA, or most of the saltwater species I like to chase.”
Q) How do you go about locating fish?
Mark – “Finding fish is just like patterning and learning about deer behavior. You have to study and learn the traits and habits of the animals you are pursuing. I know by experience where the fish are likely to be at certain times of the year or during certain changes in the lake or structure. I look for mud flats and grass beds in shallow water and especially those that have close access to deeper water as they tend to hold larger fish. Gar are normally located in moving water areas adjacent to the flat spots where they can chase and catch prey as they move with the current. Stump rows and timber adjacent to deep water are also great places to find these fish.”
Q) Do you prefer to fish from a boat or to wade in shallow water?
Mark – “Utilizing a boat opens up a tremendous amount of possibilities for bowfishing as well as allowing you to keep all your accessories and needed items handy. The boat is also a great place to keep and store your catch as well. Some areas do not offer great boat access and wading can be very effective in those spots. Wading can be particularly effective during the carp spawn when they are in very shallow water that you cannot reach in a boat. About the only time I wade is during the spawn. Otherwise I am fishing out of a boat. Boats also give you the opportunity to fish very effectively at night with the aid of lights run off a generator. Night-time bowfishing is good year-round. The best time for wade-fishing however, is during the spawn.”
Q) How can a person practice their bowfishing skills?
Mark – “The best way to practice is to get on the water and shoot. I know it sounds simple, but it duplicates the same process you will use when shooting at fish. It also gets you accustomed to shooting in the water, handling the equipment, and how to aim on submerged targets. Each shot is usually very different in water depth and distance so each shot has to be aimed or adjusted differently. The best practice is to shoot submerged or sunken targets at varying depths and distances to get a feel for the changes that need to be made to allow for the light refraction that occurs when shooting something under water.”
Q) Any other advice or words of wisdom you’d like to offer?
Mark – “Be very careful with your reels and line and take the extra time to make sure all line is clear and arrows are ready before shooting to prevent any accidents or lost equipment. Use high quality polarized glasses when shooting during the daytime and try and position yourself to keep the sun at your back for better visibility. Be quiet and stealthy when sneaking up on fish and try to get close for a good shot. Avoid days following heavy rains when the water is very muddy and higher than normal as this will make the fish harder to see and locate and can also cause the fish to move from normal areas due to higher and/or colder water.
Most importantly of all, have a plan in place to dispose of your catch properly and ethically in advance. Make sure to dispose of your catch where it will not create a problem and eye sore for others around the lake and not cause problems with rotting, decaying fish stinking up the place. Also make sure and check all your local restrictions and regulations for bowfishing. The rules and regulations vary greatly from state to state on what is, and is not legal to do with your bow.”
Bowfishing is one of the greatest ways to introduce someone, particularly young people, to the sport of archery and bowhunting. Find the right spot and shot opportunities will be frequent. And we all know that when it comes to archery and bowhunting, lots of shot opportunities means big-time fun.