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Outside Iowa: Bowfishin’ Mania is running wild

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By Thomas Allen

Bow fishing is relatively cheap to get into, locating some good shooting is very simple and it is just good, “clean” fun.  Your efforts in shooting big fish like carp and gar offer great benefits as far as management is concerned because carp often overpopulate quickly and they can be very hard on the habitat.

It is my preference to set up an inexpensive bow specifically for shooting fish. Since archery season is almost two months away, changing your deer hunting set up at this point in the summer creates more of an inconvenience than anything.  

I know you could find an older bow for $50 or less at a garage sale or even some local archery shops.  Pick up a bow fishing reel, a couple of arrows and you will be ready to stick some fish.

Most of Iowa’s lakes are impoundments, which in turn means there is usually a spillway of some sort on the lake.  Below the spillway the carp swim up stream and get stopped by the dam creating a great shooting opportunity; you can literally shoot dozens of fish this way! 

Up on the lakeside, the shallow muddy bays will usually hold substantial numbers of fish during the day.

With the lack of rain we have had this year, some of the river bottoms could be dynamite as low waters often create oxbows trapping fish in the shallow water.  

But conversely, with low water the fish will usually congregate in certain areas making them easier to locate.  

The carp constantly seek the shallow water and end up getting trapped in these smaller “pools” as the water recedes before they realize it. Take some bug spray.

When shooting at fish that are not directly below you, most stick and string anglers will miss their target on the high side.  

This is because the light bends the image you see, making it appear closer to the surface than it actually is. Aim low, almost to the point where it feels like you are going to miss and you’ll strike gold.  Don’t overlook night shoots either.  With adequate lighting the action can be very exciting.

There are a few things you need to be aware of when shooting fish in Iowa.  You cannot shoot game fish (i.e. bass, walleye, pike, muskies, etc.), rough fish only.  This means you can shoot all the carp and gar until your heart is content.  

However, if you decide to take your bow to a farm pond that has some large grass carp swimming around, be sure to check with the pond owner on whether or not he wants those fish shot.  

Grass carp are often purposely stocked, and a couple of them will actually keep moss off the pond, which is good for the overall system.  

You will most likely get wet and dirty so junky shoes and pants are a good idea, but don’t wear that stuff back in the house after a long day in carp waters…Trust me.  Also don’t get caught over at the neighbor’s koi pond trying to shoot those things either. I can assure you that won’t end well.

Summer’s dog days are slowly passing us by, but spend a little time trying some new adventures like bow fishing and you will keep your archery skills sharp. It truly is the best of both worlds.  

I love to say this and won’t stop. This is also a great opportunity to get the kids outside when they seem to be bored out of their mind.  It will help burn some energy and expose them to a sport that is not as ‘glamorous’ as others in the outdoor world.  

Make sure you take plenty of water and stay hydrated; heat injuries in this weather are a real possibility!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll help in any way I can!  tha481@gmail.com

Live It Up!

Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit www.outsideiowa.com