Archers, now is the best time to blow the dust off your bows and head for an area lake or river. Carp — big and ugly — are invading the shallows to carry out their annual spawning ritual. Because of that, they are vulnerable.
Normally wary, spawning females can be seen with several suitors who have one thing on their minds. The fish are often easy to approach during breeding, and at peak spawning time (late May to mid-June), the water can be boiling with carp. So rigorous are the spawning fish that they are heard splashing and rolling before they are seen.
Enter the bowhunters, many of whom want to extend their hunting beyond fall. Bowfishing has taken off in popularity, and targeting carp has fed that trend. (Bowfishing is now allowed at night. Read the Minnesota fishing rules.)
The menial carp also is unsightly and destructive. It roots around on the water's floor, muddying lakes and rivers and causing algae blooms that reduce light penetration. Less light affects the growth of weed habitat that is good for waterfowl and fish.
Carp are found in many Minnesota waterways. Lake Mille Lacs — most famous for its walleyes — attracts carp-shooters from afar, especially now when many fish move into the shallows. Check the weedy bays on the south and west shores, but don't discount any shoreline, especially on calm, sunny days. In past years, I've seen the north shore alive with spawning carp even though it is devoid of emergent weeds. Trophy carp of the 40-plus pound variety are taken each spring on Mille Lacs.
Bowfishing requires little equipment, but there are some essentials. For one, a special arrow made of fiberglass or solid aluminum. These heavy arrows, tipped with a barbed fishing point, are needed to penetrate the water and thick scales of large fish. A stout line connects the arrow to a bowfishing reel that is screwed into the stabilizer insert on the bow. Your local archery shopowner can best advise you on tackle.
Polarized sunglasses are indispensable because they cut water surface glare and give a clearer view of the fish.
Consider chest waders if you want to work from the shallows. Carp and other fish can be shot from a canoe, but it's wise to choose a more stable craft. Popular among veteran bowfishers are johnboats equipped with an elevated platform with a trolling motor controlled by foot.
Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.