Bowfishing the Bayou

The location of Marsh Masters Guide Service is marked by the red star, and is located roughly 2 hours south of New Orleans. We “hunted” for shark in Timbalier Bay, the bay directly west of their location.

Four women would meet in Louisiana for our adventure: AMS owner and WomenHunters staff writer, Cindy Braun and I from Wisconsin, Gray Farnsworth, Pro Staffer with Dunkin-Lewis, from South Carolina and Linette Boquet, avid hunter and BOW instructor from Louisiana. All of us had bowfished before; but Cindy was the only one who’d ever drawn on a shark. We’d be split up between two bay boats by day to be filmed by Tara Bertalan Hamlin, owner of Nova Impact Productions, and her cameraman Travis Weaver.
Tara Bertalan Hamlin can be seen here filming on the back of the bay boat as we speed out into Timbalier Bay in search of shark.

We talked excitedly Monday morning as we geared up our bows and prepared for our 15 mile boat ride west through Timbalier Bay to Timbalier Island at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. With Capt. Darel Bryan and his father Capt. Bobby Bryan of Marsh Masters Guide Service at the helm, we had no concerns, other than keeping our balance on the deck of the bay boats as the waves rocked us while searching for sharks.

Capt. Darel Bryan and Linette Boquet search for sharks along a sand bar at the edge of the gulf.
We readied our gear for the trip. My regular bowfishing gear consisted of my Mathews Sportsmans bow (and my Mathews Outback as a backup bow, with 80% let-off), AMS Retriever reel, channel rest, and fiberglass arrow with Muzzy quick-release fish point. This gear would be sufficient for our nighttime bowfishing ventures into the coastal marshes for smaller species, but our shark setups required slight adjustments. First, both of my Mathews bows were set to 50-pound draw weights to be certain they would penetrate the tough skin of the shark. The Sportsman bow has no let-off, so I brought my Outback along in case my arm tired (“no let-off” bows and recurves are ideal for the quick shooting required when bowfishing). Cindy had brought her Mathews Sportsmans bow as well, along with her Mathews Mustang, set to 50 lbs., for her backup bow. AMS supplied us with their Slotted Retriever reel; 400 lb. test line and floats, all specifically used and needed for pursuing shark.
AMS owner, Cindy Braun, left, and Gray Farnsworth, right, display their redfish and sheepshead, respectively.

The Slotted reel allows for a special setup where the line can be tied to an arrow on one end and to a float at the other end. The float is held in place on our bows by an “adapter rod” that screws into the stabilizer hole. The float is simply pushed onto the rod, and easily pulled off when the line is pulled on. Upon shooting a shark or other large fish or sting ray, the line will travel completely out of the “bottle”, lastly pulling through the side-slot on the reel and pulling the float off the rod. The float is essential both for tracking and for tiring the shark and enabling more shots to be taken.

Unfortunately for us, no sharks were hit, although each of us had our opportunities at 6, 7 and even 8-foot sharks on our second day out. We spent some long hot days searching and ultimately ended up with a couple of sting rays and redfish taken in coastal waters.

Here’s the stingrays we shot in the coastal waters of Timbalier Bay while bowfishing for shark, I’m on the left, and Cindy is pictured on the right with Capt. Darel Bryan of Marsh Masters Guide Service.
Each day we headed in for some shade, rest and food before heading out again at 9pm, this time on the airboat. Equipped with dovetail mounts on all our bows, we simply removed the AMS Slotted Retriever reels (model 311) at the end of the day, and replaced them with the simpler version, the AMS Retriever reel (model 310). We quickly slid them onto our mounts, tightened them down, and off we went. Capt. Darel Bryan negotiated the waterways and back marshes with skill, his 15 years of experience easily showing as he maneuvered among the tall marsh grasses and narrow passageways. Fish spottings began and we all jumped to our feet eager to get some fish on ice.

Redfish and sheepshead were plentiful and darted about under the bright lights mounted all around the airboat deck. Cindy, an excellent shot with her Mathews bow, was first to arrow a nice redfish, followed by Gray who upon hitting her first fish exclaimed, “Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!” and had us all smiling ear to ear.
Linette Boquet, left, and Gray Farnsworth, right, show off the redfish and sheepshead they arrowed.

Shortly thereafter Linette and I each hit our first fish, and the rest of the night became a blur with a flurry of activity shooting, releasing and reloading for the next shot

By 2am we were wiped out and ready to go. Just as I took my seat, Capt. Darel called out,”there’s a gator-gar to your left Alyssa!” I jumped up, grabbed my Mathews bow, simultaneously nocked an arrow, searched for the gar and drew back my string. In a matter of seconds it was over and I realized amidst the “whoops” and “hollers” that I’d hit the gar. With help from the deckhand Colby, we pulled the gar boat-side. What a thrill to feel the weight of a 40 pound alligator gar on your line, and what a way to end the night!

We all agreed it was truly an adventure and a thrill to bowfish the coastal waters of Louisiana for shark,alligator gar, sheepshead,drum and redfish, and it’s certainly a challenge we all look forward to facing again in the future.
Here’s my 4 ½-foot alligator gar which I arrowed with my Mathews bow at 2a.m., just as we were ready to leave the marsh and call it quits for the night.
Results of our successful bowfishing adventure in Louisiana; (left to right) Cindy Braun, Alyssa Haukom, Gray Farnsworth, and Linette Boquet.

For your Louisiana bowfishing adventure, contact Capt. Darel & Ava Bryan:

Marsh Masters Guide Service at: #985-396-2980
r visit their website at:

Guide service provides everything you need: bows, rods & reels, & expert knowledge of the area – just bring a cooler and ice and you’re good to go! Accommodations, food, fish cleaning and packaging are all available onsite at Marsh Masters Guide Service

For bowfishing equipment or questions, contact Cindy or Jeff:

AMS Bowfishing: #715-687-2350
Or visit their website at:

Bowfishing Gear Checklist:

  • Bow, 40 pounds is good for most species, use 50 lbs. or better for shark
  • AMS Retriever reel and line
  • AMS Slotted Retriever reels and floats, if after "big game"
  • Channel rest
  • Fiberglass bowfishing arrow with Muzzy quick-release point
  • Gloves, neoprene water-ski gloves with leather fingers work well
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • LOTS of Water
  • Comfortable shoes or sandals that won't slip on wet boat surfaces
  • "Junk" towels for wiping wet and muddy hands and equipment
  • Zip-loc freezer bags to store and freeze processed fish
  • Cooler, to store fish.