There are certain places that I love to hunt, and I will begin with these if at all possible. Big mud flats are a great place to find feeding carp and cruising gar, both day and night. Use your lake maps to find long, shallow points or underwater islands out in the middle of the lake. Some of the largest fish I have shot have been out in the middle of the lake in shallow water. It seems close access to deep water is where the monsters love to live. When you locate these areas, look for muddy spots that indicate feeding fish. Key in on those spots, and look for the freshest mud or bubbles to locate the fish. Usually I can see the dark shape of the fish or the tail moving while it is feeding. Gar will hang in the warmer water over these flats, or cruise the edges near deeper water.
Some of my area has pockets that are full of stumps. These are great places to bowfish. Gar hang out here and often will be stacked up in large numbers. These are the best hot weather places I have - and the hotter it is, the better. When the sun is straight overhead, I can see down into the stumps and often shoot carp down in the root system or feeding on the algae on the stump itself. If you have areas on your waterway marked as hazardous due to stumps or logs, check these out on the hottest of days.
Fallen timber is another great place to check for fish. Carp will feed all over the branches on the moss and algae. Slowly stalking through downed trees will let you see them working over the branches. Gar will hang parallel to the limbs and act like they are part of the tree. They camouflage extremely well in a tree top, so look very closely at every outstretched branch. The benefit of this is while you are checking tree tops you will often see bass or other fish that you can come back for later. I can’t tell you how many bream and shellcracker beds I have come across while bowfishing.
If you fish in areas with current, look along seams or in eddies for fish. Gar will often cruise right beside a current seam so they can catch bait fish that push out of the swifter water. Any obstacle that blocks current will be a great place to look. For smaller creeks, any log or rock will provide a place for fish to get out of the current, and therefore makes a good place to look. During the spawn, these places will concentrate fish in huge numbers. I have seen carp thick enough to walk across on our river in the spring time. Dams and shoals are some of the very best places to be near during the spawn.
Calm backwaters and sloughs are great places to look in the heat of summer. That superheated water will stack up with gar, and can be a deadly place to stalk on a hot summer day, or even at night. Another benefit to these places is they are usually not infested with jet skiers or pleasure boaters. If the weeds aren’t too thick in the summer, it will be a good place to hunt when the main lake or river is too busy with activity. If there are a lot of weeds, look in any open pockets you can find. Open areas are usually caused by carp feeding, and they make a good place for gar to lay in wait for prey as well.
This has been the “Where” segment of our bowfishing how-to. Up next - “Why”.