Fishing the old-fashioned way: with a bow and arrow

Posted: Friday, July 05, 2002

KELLOGG, Minn. (AP) -- Standing on Schmoker's Bridge, Aaron Horsman eyed the murky water below. To the untrained eye, the surface of the Mississippi River backwater slough appeared unpromising. But Horsman saw something.

He drew an arrow in his bow, aimed and fired. The arrow plunged into the water with a sharp plunk. Bubbles spiraled to the surface. The Plainview man reeled the arrow in and caught nothing but a wet clump of weeds.

For Horsman, bow fishing for carp is the perfect summertime compliment to bow hunting for white-tailed deer in the fall. He shoots for fun at local archery competitions. But to kill a few hours between his warm-season construction work, he drives to some local water and hunts carp.

On June 30, this was a slough at Schmoker's Bridge near Kellogg.

''I see a lot of guys down here trying to catch them by worms and they never get them,'' he said.

His equipment starts with a cheap, compound bow, which can be found for about $100.

Better yet, Horsman said, ask around for an old bow that no one's using. A reel made for bow fishing costs about $50, he said. A fiberglass arrow with a special fishing tip costs about $10.

Sunny days are best for spotting carp when they are swimming just under the surface, he said.

''It's tough on a cloudy day,'' Horsman said.

The sun can glare the surface so to help subdue spot submarine quarry, Horsman wore a pair of polarized sunglasses, called ''Fish Eyes.'' Cost: $10.

Shooting from Schmoker's Bridge gave him an advantage. The angle of entry was nearly 90 degrees, providing less resistance to his arrow. At shallow angles the arrow can skim or skip on the water and if it penetrates the surface, it doesn't fly true through the water, he said.

The easiest shooting comes when carp spawn in late spring and early summer, when water is between 58 to 68 degrees. Spawning carp will crowd and splash into shallow backwaters, reaching unlikely places during high water. At this time, the savvy hunter looks for carp backs sticking out of the water.

Carp hunting has been slow this year, Horsman said. Last spring, when the Mississippi River hit its second-highest record flood level, it was carp hunters' heaven, he said.

Bow fishing usually is limited to carp, although many fish, labeled non-game by natural resource agencies, are legal to take with an arrow.

On occasions, Horsman has stalked suckers when the Zumbro River floods near Thielman, but carp are hunted most often because they present the most promising target. After several hours, Horsman had managed to spear a few carp. As he reeled one up to the bridge, he acknowledged he's not ready to eat them yet.

''Some people say if you smoke these things they're good eating,'' he said. ''I don't know, they don't look like very good eating fish to me.''

A boy fishing with two adults on the bridge offered to take it.

''Are you going to keep that?'' the boy asked.

''No, if you want it, you can have it,'' Horsman said. ''What are you going to do with it?'''

''Smoke it,'' the boy answered.

A young, friendly, black Labrador roamed the area, very willing to take a cool dip in the water below. Its name was Gunner and according to a collar tag its owner is Jon Schmoker of Kellogg.

Gunner seemed accustomed to hanging out with anglers on the bridge or staring up at them while treading water from below. Horsman nailed another carp and the muscle-bound fish surged under the bridge. Gunner quickly made his way down the bank and into the water. Horsman tried to horse the carp from around an abutment.

By the time he maneuvered it into the open Gunner had his mouth on it. The carp slipped free of the arrow and the dog's teeth and swam away. The dog hung around a little longer and then disappeared.

''I think I'm all carped out for one day,'' he said.

At Prairie Bait Shop in Kellogg, several locals said Gunner is a fixture at the bridge. The dog likes to retrieve bobbers that anglers have carelessly tossed into the water. Last week it discovered a new hobby -- chasing carp.

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