AMS Bowfishing owner Cindy Braun (left) and WomenHunters Membership Director Linda Thompson (right) scan the water for carp.
Cindy asked us if we wanted to go bowfishing. She didn’t have to ask twice. So we set our sights on June. Linda Thompson drove from Michigan and we met Cindy on June 6th for a full evening of bowfishing on the Eau Pleine River and Reservoir (pronounced "O Plane") followed by a full day of bowfishing on Mead Lake, both located in central Wisconsin. Comprising over 6800 acres, the Eau Pleine Reservoir has ample room for Northern Pike, Walleye, Musky, Panfish, Bass and Bullhead… but what we were after, were the Carp.Cindy and her husband generously outfitted us each with their AMS Retriever Reel, channel rest, Muzzy arrows, Safety Slides, and Muzzy Quick-Release Fish Points. Cindy and Linda both used an older model Mathews bow for their bowfishing, while I borrowed an old compound from Cindy. Either a compound or recurve works well, with only 40 to 50 pound draw weights needed. Higher weights will only tire the shooter, as repetitive, quick shots are the norm. No sights are required. Just aim low, shoot, reel in. It’s that simple.

We slipped the boat into the murky water at 9pm and headed for the shallows of the Eau Pleine Reservoir.

The bright afternoon sun improved visibility for Cindy (left) and myself (right), but made our June bowfishing outing hot work as well.
Spawning activity was slow by this late date, water unusually high due to record May rains throughout Wisconsin, and visibility poor due to current windy conditions, but we kept trolling and searching.

Finally the winds quieted, visibility increased under the bright Halogen lights and carp sightings began. The hunt was on!

I detected some wiggling cattail weeds just yards away, an indication a carp was "wallowing" there, and I shot at the base of the reeds where I’d seen a fin flick above the water. I instantly felt the weight on my line and excitedly reeled in my first carp ever!

As we continued trolling along the cattails, Cindy explained and demonstrated to me how to unscrew the Muzzy Quick-release tip and flip the prongs in the opposite direction, slip off the fish, flip the prongs back, tighten the fish point, and jump back on the platform for more action. Minutes later, Cindy arrowed another, then another, followed by Linda. Now this was fun!

The AMS Bowfishing boat we used was equipped with a generator, air fan, trolling motor, halogen lighting, raised shooting platform and a railing for safety.
Cindy handled the boat with the ease of someone who’s "been there, done that" for years, and she has. She and her husband Jeff have not only owned AMS Bowfishing for seven years, they have also bowfished and competed in tournaments every chance they get. They’ve bowfished everything from carp to paddle fish, to alligators and sharks. It was evident from her skill and enthusiasm that she loved every minute of it! We continued bowfishing into the middle of the night, finally calling it quits at 2 am. We needed some rest.

The following day we returned to the water by 10am. As we sped across Mead Lake, a much smaller lake at just over 300 acres, we could easily see carp moving and spawning in the shallows; we couldn’t wait to begin shooting! However, we quickly learned daytime bowfishing was a tougher challenge. (At least today proved to be.) The carp were more active and much more wary and skittish. The spawning period was really winding down, so action was not as hot. We learned to shoot, and shoot fast! Overcast skies didn’t help our visibility and despite our repeated attempts, we were still without a fish by noon.

Cindy Braun displays her carp shot just moments later.
We motored over to Cindy’s parent’s cottage for lunch, and that’s when her daughter caught sight of us approaching the dock. I’ll never forget the moment her daughter called out to her Grandma who stood beside her on the shoreline, " There’s Mommy, and there’s two other women…there’s three women on the boat Grandma!"

We all turned and beamed at one another. Three women bowfishing alone, I surmised, was indeed not a common sight for this young girl. How glad I was that we were changing that image! That alone lifted our spirits and we headed back out after lunch in a more optimistic mood.

The clouds had cleared, and the sun helped improve our visibility substantially. Not long after our return to the water, Linda Thompson arrowed a nice 18-pound carp, followed by several more shot by Cindy. By 4pm we were all tired, hot and worn out, so we called it quits and vowed to return earlier next year to catch the spawn at prime time. Regardless, we all had a great time and enjoyed our bowfishing outing. And yes, now I have but another hunting activity I enjoy, and another "dream hunt" to add to my list. Cindy enticed us with her stories of Louisiana bowfishing for alligators and sharks, knowing well enough this would not be our last time to venture onto the water with our bows. If you enjoy bowhunting, you will love the fast-paced action of bowfishing. Bow setups are simple and easy and there’s nothing better than heading onto the water to cure that "in-between seasons-I-wanna-hunt" itch. Take some time to try bowfishing and you’ll see how fun and addicting it is!
Linda Thompson follows suit and reels one in as well. Arrowing my first carp was a thrill!

For bowfishing equipment and advice, visit: www.amsbowfishing.com

Bowfishing Gear List:

  1. Fishing License- most states require just a license, check your state laws and regulations before heading out onto the water
  2. Bow – a used compound or recurve, draw weight between 40-50 lbs.
  3. A rest – simple channel/prong-style rest
  4. Bowfishing Reel – I highly recommend the AMS Retriever Reel designed specifically for bowfishing use, easy to operate and safe.
  5. Fiberglass arrow – no fletching needed
  6. Arrow Safety Slide – AMS arrow Safety Slides are recommended to prevent arrow snap back (from tangled lines) which can cause serious injury. (This happens most commonly when the fishing line is tied directly to the rear of an arrow.) Use an arrow slide and always be sure the slide and line are placed in front of the rest before shooting.
  7. Quick-Release Fish Points – We used the Muzzy Quick-Release fish points
  8. Any flat-bottom, shallow-water boat will work. Use trolling motors or a paddle to position yourselves for a shot. Alternatives: try shooting from shore or wading in the shallows.
  9. Polarized sunglasses, a hat and suntan lotion are a must for daytime bowfishing.
  10. Bug spray or a light shirt are needed for protection from flying insects at night
  11. Bright lanterns or mounted lights are needed to illuminate the water around the boat for night fishing