Anderson: Big carp for bowfishing at Big Marine Lake

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 9, 2012 - 10:40 PM

On boats rigged to turn night into day, fishermen with arrows for tackle pursue a sport once banned in Minnesota.

"I often think the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day."

-- Vincent Van Gogh

Revealing itself against our advancing flood lamps, the shallow water seemed an endless aquarium alive with bluegills, small northerns, bass and the odd beaver. We were hunting carp, and here and there some of these fish also showed up, the lot of them laboring heavily against their thick scales, mouths puckered grotesquely.

This was the other night, warm and dark, and the moon peeked through a small partition in an otherwise overcast sky. We were on Big Marine Lake not far north of St. Paul, and in addition to carp, we were targeting other finned bad boys among the state's long list of watery untouchables, including bullheads and suckers -- the whole reprobate enchilada.

"Right there," Pat Kirschbaum said, nodding to starboard and drawing the attention of my son, Trevor, who stood in the bow with Pat, arrow nocked.

This was a carp Pat spotted, weighing perhaps 15 pounds and leaving the scene like a bank robber. Perhaps the fish had been alerted by our boat's bright lights. Perhaps the whrrrrr of the electric trolling motor that pulled us ahead sent him yonder. Or perhaps he skedaddled into the vague margins separating light from dark for no good reason.

A tough shot, anyway, and Trevor loosed an arrow that angled away against long odds.

Watching from astern, I sat alongside Brian Petschl, a frequent bowfishing partner of Pat's. A onetime ardent angler -- that is, with hook and line -- Brian no longer casts plugs into lily pads for bass, or back-trolls for walleyes.

"All I do now is bowfish," he said. "Ever since the first time I picked up a bow and took a shot at a carp, it's what I've wanted to do. Bowfishing combines two of my favorite things: being on the water, and hunting."

A fast-growing sport, bowfishing gained steam in Minnesota beginning in 2009, when the Legislature finally lifted the state's ban on night fishing. Theoretically, the prohibition was intended to preserve the serenity of Minnesota lakes, the concern being that a bowfisherman's bright lights and the generators needed to power them might disturb campers, cabin dwellers and homeowners.

"When we got the night ban lifted, it brought us in line with every other state in the country," Brian said. "I think we were the last, or one of the last, states to allow night bowfishing."

Seductive in the manner of nighttime's more familiar temptresses, bowfishing is a visual thing. What you see is what you get. Also, the challenge of understanding how water refracts light is a brain teaser that requires the angler -- archer -- to aim his arrow not where his eyes tell him a fish is but instead, thanks to the trickery of refraction, below that point.

How far below varies with the amount of light above the water, the amount of light penetrating the water, the distance a fish is from the archer, and the depth of water.

A sharpshooting archer and good bow hunter, Trevor had never before triggered an arrow into the depths. Proficiency in the art requires practice, he soon learned, when the first carp he targeted escaped unstuck.

"It's instinct shooting," Brian said. "You don't aim with the aid of a sight, as you do while bow hunting for deer."

Both Brian and Pat are past presidents of the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association (landoflakesbowfishing.com), and Brian is the outfit's current legislative liaison.

Though perhaps 3,000 or more Minnesotans fish with bows, fewer than 200 belong to the group.

"A lot of people haven't heard of us, that's one reason," Brian said. "Also, some longtime bowfishermen aren't sure why they should belong to our organization.

"I can assure you there are many good reasons."

Among them are additional efforts at the Legislature by Brian, Pat and other Land of Lakes members, one of which could end the statewide bowfishing prohibition during March and April.

The club also directs considerable attention to the pastime's relatively few poor sports.

"We emphasize adherence to state laws that restrict how close we can fish to shore," Brian said. "We're also big on proper fish disposal. No one wants to see a pile of dead fish at a boat landing. As soon as someone rigs up for bowfishing, the first thing they should consider is how they're going to get rid of their fish. A lot of farmers will take them for fertilizer."

As Brian spoke, another carp appeared to starboard. Trevor drew back elastically, and fired. Picking up our bright lights, his arrow traveled like a shooting star, trailing the string that connected it to Trevor's bow.

Faster than the eye could calculate, the arrow's broadhead penetrated the carp -- a real hog with a fat belly that approached 30 pounds in weight.

Pat soon also stuck the big fish, doubling the chance it would be landed.

Birds don't generally mill around in the dark. Instead they roost. But had a bird been above us just then, say a whippoorwill, a nighttime aerialist, it would have seen Pat and Trevor struggle as they pulled in their arrow strings hand over hand.

Great thrashing ensued. Then the carp yielded to its fate.

How late in the night this occurred, I'm unsure. I do know most Minnesotans were asleep.

I know also the bottom of the big tub that sat amidships in our boat was filling up with carp.

Further into the darkness, soon illuminated, we cruised.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Bowfishing for carp on Big Marine Lake

    Thursday July 26, 2012

    Bowfishing is a fast-growing sport in Minnesota, particularly at night when lake shallows are illuminated and carp hunters take...

  • Pat Kirschbaum unleashed an arrow while bowfishing on Big Marine Lake. The arrows are tipped with broadheads that open after they go through a fish, preventing them from being easily pulled out.

  • BOWFISHING

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close