Fall and winter are the most difficult times for me, with winter the worst of the two. Most of the fish I chase go deep when the water cools off. I could head south and find some rays or mullet to shoot, but most of my winter is spent chasing deer so road trips are few and far between.
On my local river, it is best to go out at night if you want to shoot during fall or winter. We use small LED lights to light up the water and the two species we can always count on are carp and shad. The carp are very pale in the cold water, so they almost glow in the faintest of light. Shad are ever present, and a light moving across the water brings them out of the woodwork. They are a real bugger to hit, but a willing target is always welcome on my water!
Spring is a gift to the bowfisher. Around here, as soon as the dogwoods and redbud trees are blooming, the carp begin to spawn. If you can be on the river or lake when the spawn is taking place, it is a magical time of mud and blood. Entire areas will be covered in amorous carp, and they are often so shallow they will be flopping out of the water. This makes for easy targets - and plentiful ones!
The gar will be following suit, and can be seen in “rafts” of males with one large female in the middle. They will be in the shallows cruising the banks. You can usually see them from quite a distance with their spotted fins waving above the surface.
If you can find rocks or a dam blocking a path in a river, this is an awesome place to hunt. All these fish try to run upstream to spawn, and any obstacle in their path will concentrate them for you. Some of my most favorite hunts were in the shoals that cross our river.
Summer has a few challenges, but is still an incredible time to shoot. Weed growth can create problems, or opportunities, depending on how you look at it. Visibility is reduced, but it also makes it harder for the fish to see you.
I look for pockets in the weeds with mud in them to find active feeding carp. Sneaking up on these, you will usually see bubbles or fresh mud where the fish’s head is. I have had some awesome days stalking muddy spots on the flats.
Summer is also the time that gar hang in pods, gulping air in the hottest part of the day. These places are easily found if you look and listen. Gar will gulp air, and you can hear them from a great distance. You can see them “porpoise” or see the waves from them surfacing.
One tip:if there are a lot of powerboats running around it will keep the fish down. Hit the water early before the pleasure boaters and locate the pods before it gets noisy. When you do find them, set up a drift and shoot them as you pass through. The fish will dive deep, but will usually stay in the same vicinity. Make a wide sweep around them, and float through again.
Nights in the summer are outstanding; the weather is cooler, and there is no boat traffic. It is always interesting stalking fish in the stillness of the night during the summer!
In fall the weeds are dying off, and that makes it easier to find the fish. The colder the water gets, the deeper the fish go. Look along transition areas that have shallows close to deep water, especially if you have a warm spell.
Stay tuned – “where” is next!