Anderson: A nighttime bowfishing prowl for carp

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2013 - 10:50 PM

As darkness falls, some Minnesota bowhunters take up an increasing popular activity, piercing the night and laying waste to the lowly carp.

hide

Bowfishing for carp, Pete Luke, left, and Cole Anderson prowled a lake near Princeton, Minn., on Wednesday night. The sport has become increasingly popular since night bowfishing was legalized beginning in 2008.

Photo: Photos by Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

.

 

Men of the night, bowfishermen often launch their watercraft while other boaters are leaving lakes, their water skiing or tubing or fishing completed for the day.

Such was the scene Wednesday evening, when Pete Luke and I, along with my son Cole, motored quietly from the public access on a lake not far from this town just north of the Twin Cities.

The warm air was summerlike, and a clearing sky suggested the evening would be dry.

A good night to hunt carp.

“It’s been a pretty good spring on this lake,’’ Pete said.

A lifelong bowfisherman, Pete enjoys few activities more than standing on the shooting deck of his big Alumacraft john boat, with its powerful lights illuminating the waters just ahead.

Now, with bow in hand and darkness approaching, he did just that, stepping up to the bow perch, and I along with him, and Cole, too.

From this vantage point, the evening appeared still more beautiful, and we glided through the water, a bow-mounted electric trolling motor pulling us ahead, with a half-circle of the lake bottom brightened off the bow.

Peering into the shallow water as if looking into an aquarium, we soon saw a largemouth bass hanging to the left, a sunfish to the right, both motionless.

Pretty, yes. But neither presented itself as regally — an odd word to use here — as the common carp we encountered next.

There.

This was a big fish, its oversized scales visible along its back, the entire carp appearing golden in the boat’s floodlights.

A bad actor by all measures, the carp causes many problems for many people, and also for other species of fish and wildlife.

It overproduces, for example, muddying lake bottoms, stunting plant growth and reducing fish diversity.

Also, unfortunately, carp move easily from one body of water to another, one watershed to another, thus explaining their quick dispersal after they were first brought to Minnesota from England in the late 1800s.

In retrospect, a monumental error.

But at the time, importing carp was considered a way to provide high protein food, and not a little sport.

Now, virtually anywhere in Minnesota where there’s water, carp swim. And millions of dollars are spent each year by the state in attempts — so far, in vain — to eradicate them.

This night, Pete was doing his part.

Targeting the now-fleeing carp, he drew back and aligned his arrow instinctively, meaning he didn’t use sights on his bow.

Instead he relied only on hand-eye coordination to match his bow’s movement to the carp’s, and to release the arrow just as the fish reached the boat lights’ nether reaches.

Curiously, the arrow entered the water at what appeared to be a point below where the fish swam. This was Pete accounting for refraction, meaning the fish wasn’t actually where Pete’s sighting eye told him it was.

Rather, the fish swam below that focal point.

So Pete compensated, aimed beneath the fish, released … and stuck it.

Rocketing into the muddy beyond, the carp immediately scurried into the darkness, drawing tight the string that connected the arrow to the bow.

Chaos ensued, and Pete handed his bow to Cole before retrieving the arrow line, hand over hand. As quickly, the carp raced beneath the boat, attempting its escape in the night’s gathering darkness.

Sometimes amid these violent tugs of war, an impaled fish slips the arrow, never to be found. But this carp was held fast by the arrow’s broadhead, and soon was pulled into the boat, where it was dumped into a large plastic barrel, destined to be a farmer’s fertilizer.

•••

Into the night we prowled the ever darker lake, hitting and missing fish, the biggest of which weighed 19 pounds, a chunky specimen Cole arrowed as it finned contentedly in the lake’s shallows.

Not atypically for bowfishermen, ours was the only boat on the lake, while on shore, on this warm night, yellowed lights shone through the windows of cabins and homes.

Humming purposefully from the stern of Pete’s boat, powering our fishing lights, a generator crooned the night song of bowfishermen everywhere.

Not yet 11 p.m., time, we figured, was on our side.

“Couldn’t be a better night,’’ I said.

Coincidentally, while we looked for carp, a “summit’’ of sorts was held in the Twin Cities on the same subject, led by bowfishing advocates. The intent was to explore ways that laws and ethics governing disposal of carp by bowfishermen can be better adhered to.

Or, lacking that, more aggressively enforced.

“We want to educate more people who bowfish about the need to dispose of fish appropriately,’’ said Brian Petschl, president of the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association.

Since nighttime bowfishing was first allowed in Minnesota beginning in 2008, the sport has grown significantly, Petschl said. Previously, bowfishing was allowed only during daylight, a restriction unheard of in most other states.

But now some bowfishermen — perhaps primarily those new to the sport, or dabbling in it, shooting the odd carp or bullhead when given the opportunity — are challenging the public’s tolerances by dumping fish at boat landings, or in ditches on the way home, a practice that perturbs no one more than Petschl, or for that matter Pete.

“My carp go to a friend who freezes them, then cuts them up to use for bear bait,’’ Pete said. “Either that or they go for fertilizer in farmers’ fields.’’

“It’s important to do it right,’’ Petschel said.

Midnight approached, and Pete, Cole and I had a half-dozen carp to our credit.

Taking one more pass in a shallow area where we had bumped a few carp earlier in the evening, Pete angled his boat toward shore. Again a bluegill appeared in the lighted water, and another, and also a bass.

Then …

There.

This was a carp, its oversized scales visible along its back, the entire fish appearing hulk-like and golden in the boat’s light.

Drawing back, Cole let an arrow fly. Chaos ensued, and soon another big fish was added to the plastic barrel in Pete’s boat.

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

 

  • related content

  • One year later: Lake Superior fishery appears to have weathered storm

    Monday July 1, 2013

    A year after the June assault on the North Shore, Lake Superior and the St. Louis River estuary appear healthier than originally predicted.

  • DNR to crack down on drunken boating

    Saturday June 29, 2013

    With the Independence Day holiday approaching, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is ramping up enforcement this weekend against drunken boating.

  • Luke brought a common carp to the boat after it was arrowed by Anderson on Wednesday night. The fish will be used as fertilizer or bear bait.

  • 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

Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 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