Back to Features
Enjoy the Heat with Big Carp
Enjoy the Heat with Big Carp
The author with a fresh carp just removed the specialized arrow.
By Garret Payne
By the time water temperatures in the local lakes and rivers begin to rise in late spring and early summer, hunters will have traded their bow for a rod and reel. The two can actually go together however as this is a perfect time to break out the bow and practice on the water. Shooting targets at your local range or in your backyard will help improve your shooting but the most overlooked practice opportunity, and one that is far from boring, is bow fishing. When big carp are headed your way in the shallows you need both stealth and accuracy to score. Carp hunting aids you in judging distance, shot angles, and picking your shot at a small, moving target. By the time you are sunburned and tired you should be have developed more confidence in your ability.
In Lake Michigan, when sunshine and spring rains warm the water, common carp head for the shallows to spawn. At first there are only a few visible splashing, and then almost overnight they begin to flood every harbor and creek channel feeding the lake. Growing up in Kansas there was ample opportunity to witness the carp spawning cycle in the local creeks and rivers, but that is nothing compared to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River where there are literally hundreds of fish in the twenty plus pound range. There is one harbor in particular where a long boulder break wall made on the harbor’s south side always has plenty of the golden giants lurking about.
For carp hunting gear I use an older compound bow equipped with the AMS bow fishing setup and a good pair of Cabela’s polarized glasses. Clear, bright days provide the best light, which enables you to peer well below the surface and like most fishing; the fish are most active in the morning and evening.
When you think bow fishing you think flat bottom boat surrounded by big halogen lights, and a deck from which to shoot. With spawning carp you are not limited to a boat as shallow water warms quicker than waters offshore and that’s where you find carp. If you don’t like wading you can have success from shore also. We like to perch ourselves atop the break wall some 10 feet above the water level then scan the edge taking advantage of the polarized glasses. It usually isn’t long before big fish are spotted as they leisurely work their way back and forth along the break wall while we stand still, ready to draw and shoot
Picking a spot where you can see the bottom is very helpful as the fish stand out against a sandy bottom making it easier to judge depth. The refraction angle of water causes visual distortion so for about every foot of water above the fish you want to aim six inches lower than what you see in the water. Plan you trips so you’re there in the morning hours between 6:30 and 10:30 and evening hours between 5:00 and dark. Many times the carp will school where small streams empty into larger bodies of water and they will swim up the smaller streams to spawn. When this happens, you’ll learn first hand where the term ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ came from!
Bow fishing provides great shooting practice during the summer from shore or boat and don’t limit yourself to large bodies of water. Low water bridges and spillways are great places also. Many small lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, and streams hold various species legal for bow fishing. Remember to check your state rules and regulations before heading out and don’t leave the carp you shoot on the bank or in shallow water to cause problems for the next group of folks that use the area.
Back to top
© 2010 OutdoorsWeekly.com