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Hunting Sturgeon with a spear is even harder than bowfishing. In Wisconsin the spearing season goes from Feb 8 through Feb 23 through the ice. A 6ft hole is cut in the ice and the spearer sits in wait in a completely dark ice shack. A decoy attracts the behemoth and then the fish is speared.
The sturgeon moves along rivers and lakes where currents meet. They must have a certain amount of velocity in the current to maintain a healthy oxygen rate in their gills.
They are an ancient fish found all over the world.
There are many 23 species of sturgeon, class Acipenseridae and there are seven in the
US alone. Most live in freshwater, but a few are in saltwater. Sturgeon are large fishes found anywhere between 3 to 30ft long. They are sought commercially for their ripe eggs (caviar) and for their flesh. Overharvesting and dams have reduced their populations dramatically. They must swim up a river to spawn. If a dam is in the way, then they can’t spawn.
In the US we have the shovelnose sturgeon, the lake sturgeon, the green sturgeon, pallid sturgeon and the white sturgeon. (two more are coastal ocean sturgeon).
The white sturgeon found mostly in the Columbia River in Washington State, is the largest in the US growing up to 10ft long.
The lake sturgeon found mostly in rivers and in big lakes in the Midwest and Lake Champlain VT. is around 6 ft. long and can weigh over a 100lbs. Most sturgeon that are speared are around 100lbs. (record lake sturgeon was 154 yrs. old and 208 lbs caught in lake of the woods MN).
The shovelnose sturgeon is found in many areas of the US and averages about 3ft long.
The Chinese caused 6 different species of sturgeon to go extinct when they build the 3 gorges dam over the Yangtze River.
The sturgeon is a prehistoric fish that has changed very little over 100 million years. The skin of the fish is covered with scutes, like body armor making it very tough to spear. The sturgeon is a bottom eating fish with large barbels that sense the conditions of its feeding grounds. They have a cartilaginous skeleton, a shovel like snout, a ventrally located mouth, large boney plates on head, side and back called scutes.
The sturgeon can live to be very old, 100 yrs. is average. They don’t usually do their first spawning until they are around 35 yrs. old
Bowfishing for Bighead
By Alyssa Haukom,
© August 2012
The AMS Bowfishing boat slid off the trailer into the inky darkness of the
Bowfishing the Eau Pleine Reservoir
Finally, the winds quieted. Visibility increased under the bright halogen lights, and carp sightings began. The hunt was on!
It's the time between the last gobbler's gobble and the opening day of bow season that drags most hunters down. The symptoms vary but depression and restlessness are common signs of hunting withdrawals usually suffered during the dog days of summer. Stacks of outdoor magazines and a remote locked to the Outdoor Channel sometimes offer temporary relief to this malady but the only sure cure is a heaping dose of hunting adrenalin. I've found the pursuit of buffalo to be just the fix I need to bridge the gap between spring and fall hunting seasons. Buffalo? You say... Here in Tennessee?.. Yep.. That's right!.. And what's more I prefer to hunt my buffalo with a bow and arrow ... at night.
|(Author with a nice Buffalo) Night bowfishing action can be fast and furious, but be sure to check regulations first before heading out on the water.|
|The author (right) and friend Cindy Braun, owner of AMS Bowfishing, search for passing carp on Wisconsin’s Mead Lake. Daytime bowfishing requires a quality pair of polarized sunglasses.|
|This boat is rigged and ready for some bowfishing action with air fan, platform, lights and trolling motor.|
Some members of our local bowfishing association (Land of Lakes Bowfishing Assoc.) were also at this particular lake on this particular day, to clean up dead fish that others have shot, speared, gaffed and just left to rot on the edge of the ice and in the water. They had sleds and containers on wheels and would haul off loads of carp to a waiting truck and trailer. This would then find its way to a nearby farm where the farmer would take them to use as fertilizer. I can’t imagine the smell all these dead carp would make if just left there at the lake when the real heat of spring and summer hit. Actually I could, but don’t want to, as I’ve smelled that smell before. Eww!
I had hoped that other people would see that our cleaning up was the ethical thing to do. Of course the LLBA members spent some time shooting also, and enjoying every minute of it.
Bowfishing on a frozen lake but in open water
I had just bought a pair of Neoprene chest waders and put them on over my pants and "long-jans." I also had a nice snug pair of Neoprene fishing gloves to wear. I wished that I had slipped some chemical heat toe warmers in my boots before I put them on, but I didn’t. Next time I definitely will. I will also keep some hand warmers in my pockets. They didn’t do me any good back in my van. I did however, have my polarized sunglasses with me, as those should always be on your face when bowfishing, even in the winter. Water is water with refraction presented, no matter what the season is.
I pulled my plastic sled (which was actually my deer drag sled) down onto the ice with my bow. I would throw my carp in it so I could easily haul them away.
I began by standing on the edge of the open water, but when I realized the depth of the water was only knee deep, I just stepped in. After all, I was wearing waders. I walked around breaking some floating ice sheets that were in the way. Then I stopped and stood still. I would eventually see carp swimming and then I’d shoot. My first shot was a double kill – a sucker through the head and then a carp through the body. I called this one a shishkabob.
A sled full of carp
The bottle reel I use is the Retriever from AMSBowfishing (http://www.amsbowfishing.com/)
The arrow and tip are the Gator Getter arrow shaft and the Quick Release Carp Point and also the Wheel of Fortune fish arrow rest, all from Muzzy (http://www.gomuzzy.com/)
There are many advantages to fishing with a bow and arrow. Except for a small splash as the arrow goes into the water, bowfishing is virtually silent. Practice target shooting costs next to nothing (unless you lose your arrows). Bowfishing can be done on the shore or in a boat, canoe, or while wading. While hunting "game" fish with a bow and arrow is either illegal or with a very short season bowfishing "rough" fish is mostly legal in all states. Check with your local Fish and Game authorities before venturing into shooting 'rough" fish.
"Rough" fish are usually considered to be carp, gar, or other types of fish unique to your home state.
Like every sport, each type has its own fan club. Just like weapons, what is good for me may not be what you like at all. Try them out before committing yourself to purchasing anything.
For average rough fish you won't need a lot of draw weight. Thirty to forty pounds is more than enough. Larger game such as alligator gar and certain saltwater species like rays and shark require heavier poundage and at times, specialized equipment. Let's just assume you'll be hunting carp-sized fish. (That's a fish in the 1-5 pound range.)
Once you have selected your bow, the next thing to consider is your arrow rest. Since fishing arrows are generally quite heavy - in excess of 1,100 grains - they may require a more solid rest than what you currently use. A specialized arrow rest usually costs around ten dollars, and considering most standard arrow rests for compound bows cost a few times that amount, it's not a bad idea to get one and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your "expensive" equipment.
For many years, standard bowfishing arrow shafts had been made from solid fiberglass. While a number of manufacturers currently offer heavy carbon composite bowfishing arrows for nearly thirty dollars each (this includes the point), I still prefer the solid fiberglass arrows. These are available for around nine dollars each and will take a lot of abuse. Remember, if you take care of them, you can reuse them over and over again.
You will also need a reel to hold and dispense your line. These can be anything from large hoops or solid reel you manually wrap line around to standard spinning reels or specialized products. Hoops and solid reels are the slowest to use since they require you to retrieve and wrap your line by hand, but for less than twenty dollars they are your least expensive choice. Large spinning reels and mounts will set you back around sixty dollars. I prefer the AMS Retriever Pro Bow fishing reel.
Next on your list of equipment considerations are arrow points, which are designed to penetrate and hold your quarry. There are several quality models available these days, but I personally prefer ones with retractable barbs. Once a fish is landed, a few turns of the tip will release the barbs and allow for easy arrow removal, getting you back in the hunt quickly.
Since glare on the water's surface can severely limit visibility, you will need a pair of polarized sunglasses. Standard sunglasses won't eliminate light reflecting on the water. They must be polarized glasses. You should be able to find an inexpensive pair wherever fishing gear is sold. However, a good pair can run into the hundreds of dollars, and in my opinion, they are worth the money and you can use them for everything, including driving and hunting.
Shooting an arrow that's tied to your bow is a somewhat risky business. If all goes well, your line discharges freely without incident. However, should your line snag during the shot, it could cause the arrow to reverse directions, coming back at you. This is known as "snap back" and is most often a result of line becoming entangled on something rearward of your bow grip - bowstring or cables, arrow rest, wristwatch, etc. The simplest way to avoid this is by keeping the line in front of your bow at all times. If you tie to the back of your arrow, the line forms a loop when the arrow is shot; it's this loop that can snap and cause the arrow to come back toward you. Since tying to the front of the arrow can cause severe flight problems, you have to look for other options. The two most common solutions are cabling rigs and the AMS Safety Slide. Both serve the same purpose - to keep the line in front of the bow prior to the shot, but allowing it to slide to the back of the arrow upon release.
A cabling rig is basically a fishing leader - most often made of steel - with attachments at the opposite ends of the arrow. Sliding up and down this cable are two plastic beads with a barrel swivel between them. The retractable fishing line is tied to the swivel, allowing it to freely travel from the front to the back of the arrow.
The AMS Safety Slide is made up of two small plastic pieces: a sleeve that slides up and down your arrow, and a stop block that's attached to the rear of the shaft by a small screw. The retractable fishing line is attached to the sleeve, which serves the same function as the barrel swivel of a cabling rig. Adding a dab of 2-ton epoxy to the set screw and stop block will prevent this (potentially) weak spot from coming loose after a couple hundred shots. The invention of the AMS Safety Slide was a huge bonus to the bowhunter and the safety of the experience. I would not hunt myself nor recommend bowfishing without one.
Bowfishing often involves close-range moving targets that may only appear for a second or two. For this reason, I decide to use my fingers rather than use mechanical releases and bow sights. Whatever system you pick to use, hitting a fish below the water's surface still presents a unique problem that you have to overcome: REFRACTION
Without getting into a lengthy physics lesson, suffice to say that light slows down as it enters water. This causes the light to bend, or "refract." The easiest way to demonstrate light refraction is by submerging one end of a drinking straw into a glass of water. As you look into the top of the glass, the straw will appear to bend upward toward the waters surface. Just like the bottom of the straw, the fish will appear closer to the surface than they really are.
If a fish is ten feet away and one foot under the surface, aim four inches low. As you double either the ten or the one, double the four accordingly. For example: twenty feet out and one foot down means to shoot eight inches low (as would ten feet out and two feet down). Trying to think out the math when bowfishing is simply sightseeing, by the time you figure it out your target is gone. The best advice here is practice, practice, practice. This may seem complicated at first, but you'll be surprised how quickly it becomes second nature.
Most individuals I know use heavy-duty braided line, with a breaking strength of (from) 80 pounds up to a whopping 600 pounds. It depends on what type fish you are fishing for. Your local dealer can clue you in on what other fishermen in the area are using. However, for the survivalist who may end up anywhere bowfishing for anything that swims, I would recommend the 200# line as a good all-around multi-purpose line that won't break unless you get one of those monster gar shown earlier.
Braided line tends NOT to tangle as much as heavy monofilament line. It is "softer" on your hands than monofilament when you have to pull in a heavy line by hand.
Unless you are a commercial fisherman or a bricklayer with heavily calloused hands, you will need to protect your hands from getting cut from the heavy fishing line as you reel in by hand. You might get away with reeling in one or two small fish without cutting your hands, but when your hands get wet all bets are off. Even a small fish seems to triple in weight as you reel in the line, arrow and fish all at once. This makes the skin on your (wet) hand feel like you are holding onto razor blades. The result can be very painful. Wear good quality leather gloves. Don't use the type that just covers the palm since there will be times when the line wraps completely around your hand. The top of your hand cuts even easier than your calloused palms. It may seem awkward at first, but protecting your hands from getting cut is a major concern in a survival situation where medical help could be a long way off. I prefer a batting glove, I can find one that fits my hand and the bow and arrow easier, plus it is easier to maneuver and is more flexible.
I don't practice as much with my bow as I should. There are not a lot of places to practice archery around my area, so I have to use farmland, with the owner's permission, of course, and remember, don't use those expensive hunting and/or fishing arrowheads for practice. Buy some cheaper practice arrows and have at it. The initial cash outlay for 6 arrows will be the same approximate cost as a few boxes of ..45 caliber bullets. However, once the .45 shells are gone, you are out of ammo. You can just walk up and re-use your arrows. Partial fill a water bottle with dark liquid, it will float slightly under the surface, and practice shooting at it. Remember to bring extras to restock as you hit the target, and remember to take them all with you when you go home to reuse or throw in the garbage.
Like any skill, you have to practice to become proficient. If you have never used a bow and arrow before, I strongly urge you to find an accomplished hunter and ask him or her to help you get started. Most archers I know would be flattered and pleased to help any novice get started in their sport. When bowfishing you will draw your bow possibly hundreds of times in a night; one of my colleagues pulled his bow 1400 times in one night when learning to shoot. So needless to say, you will have to beef up those muscles when pulling 40 pounds of draw weight or so a hundred or more times in a 6 to 8 hour period.
The difference between "sport" archery and hunting is the death of an animal for dinner. Survival archery may save your life. It's important to remember that the bow and arrow is a deadly weapon. Nations such as Great Britain used the bow as their primary defensive weapon for their armies for hundreds of years. It can kill humans as well as lower animals; so pay attention to what you aim at. The Native Americans used the bow and arrow successfully to feed their families for hundreds of years. Modern humans can still survive today using this weapon. Although the sport of Bowfishing is most associated with the nuisance or rough fish, to help eliminate a man made problem in our lakes and streams, it has been used for survival long into history and is used to put food (catfish and shark to name a few) on the table today. Aside from that, bowfishing is probably the most fun experience I have ever had as a hunter. It is fast paced, and with practice, produces an abundance of game. Happy Hunting!
President of Womenhunters
Bowhunters get yourself ready for fall hunting by practicing your accuracy on shooting trash fish and help the ecosystem at the same time. Shooting fish with your bow can be very exciting and challenging. You can get started by buying a bowfishing kit with a retriever reel and arrows with special barbed tips made by several companies or at your local sporting goods store. Bowfishing can begin with very little investment. If you have no idea how or where to begin, then hire a local guide to take you out and show you the ropes. Once you get the idea, then you can go out on your own. In some areas where its legal, bowfishing can be done at night on a boat platform with lights.
Bowfishing boats ready themselves for the annual Land of Lakes Minnesota bowfishing tournament. All fish are brought to the local zoo as feed for the animals.
Bowfishing is great for kids. This is me at 14 yrs old after shooting a nice size carp on Lake Winnebago WI.
In some parts of the country, especially the south, it’s warms up very early and draws those from the snow ridden states to Louisiana, Texas and Alabama for shooting an array of fish and alligators.
Rough fish are designated for bowfishing in each state fishing rules and the species can vary especially from the southern US compared to Northern US. These fish, such as various carp and sucker species stir up the bottom of lakes and destroy ecological habitat for game fish. Check your fishing rules to get the list of fish that can be shot by bow and arrow.
Here are some of the common type of fish that most states consider legal for bowfishing. Many of the rough fish grow to tremendous size (40-50 lbs) and would be a trophy if caught by a fishing rod. These are called rough fish and are generally the enemy of ecosystems, so in some cases lake associations ask state bowfishing clubs to rid their lakes of these pest fish. Game fish, such as bass, perch, walleye, pike etc are not allowed to be shot by bow.
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) held by author June 2008 in Minnesota
Common carp shot Feb 2009 through an ice opening by Janice Baer, WH Field Coordinator (Minnesota)
Winter bowfishing in open water in Minnesota
Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), imported from Asia for aquaculture and escaped into wild. (Ohio)
Grass carp, Bighead carp, common carp, catfish, longnose gar (Illinois)
Bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis) and Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
Silver carp, brought from Asia about 10 years ago, fly in the air as a boat goes by. The silver carp is a real menace since it jumps out of the water when a motor disturbs it. Presently, it is found in big rivers as far north as Illinois. But recently, a couple were discovered in nets in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. The fun is shooting them while they fly through the air behind the boat.
Three Buffalo Carp. The world record for smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) is 82lb 3oz.
38lb Black Buffalo. (Ictiobus niger), (Tennessee).
Bigmouth Buffalo.(Ictiobus cyrinellus). World record is 70lbs 12 oz and they can grow to 40 inches.
Mirror carp ( Cyprinus carpio specularis ), (Minnesota). Three irregular rows of enlarged scales. There is a version of the mirror carp known as the fully-scaled mirror carp that has these enlarged scales all over.
45 inch longnose garfish (Lepisosteus osseus), (Minnesota) world record is 50lbs, 5oz.
Shortnose gar (Lepisosteus platostomus), (Minnesota) . The world record was taken in Illinois in 1995: 5lb, 12oz.
Alligator gar (Lake Erie Ohio) world record is 279 lb in Rio Grande River in Texas in 1951. They have been known to grow 10ft in length. Often hunted in big rivers in Texas, Lousiana, Misssissippi River and Great Lakes. They are the supreme challenge of giant fish hunted with a bow. For non locals, going with a guide in a big boat will make this hunt the most enjoyable bowfishing adventure ever.
Big Alligator Gar (Lepisosteus spatula), close to 10 ft long. (Texas)
Several species of Suckers (Minnesota)
Blue sucker (Cycleptus elongates) next to Northern hog sucker (Hypentelium nigricans), (Minnesota)
Bowfin (Amia calva), (Minnesota). World record is 21lbs, 8oz in South Carolina.
Female bowfin (Iowa)
Eelpout (Lota lota) also known as burbot (MN).
Closeup of Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula ), (Texas).
The large paddle has electrical charges that can locate plankton in the mud.
Highfin Carpsucker (Carpiodes velifer) Has the largest high first ray as compared to quillback or other carpsuckers. The first ray of dorsal fin can be depressed over the length of the dorsal body.
Quillback (Carpiodes cyprinus) Identified by its high first ray in the dorsal, but if flattened will only go about half the length of the dorsal body.
Leatherback (Cyprinus carpio nudus) Carp with no scales except along the dorsal fin body.
Freshwater Drum, (Aplodinotus grunniens), (Minnesota). World record is 54lb, 8oz
Goldeye (Hiodon alosoides) Large golden eye is the unusual charachteristic.
46 lb common carp (Texas)
This is only a brief list of the fish available for bowfishing. As you can see most of these fish can get very large and make for an exciting retrieval after shooting them with an arrow. Many of these fish do not bite on a hook and line because of the type of food they eat. Bowfishing gives you an opportunity to aggressively go after large fish that damage our environment.
Alaska and the Yukon
North Alabama, Mississippi p
and North Georgia
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