Bowfishing combines archery, fishing

By Angelo Stambene Published: July 4, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Hunting and fishing historically have been two separate and distinct activities, each offering a chance to experience the great outdoors and attracting a loyal following of enthusiasts.

But there are some out there who aren't content with simply one or the other. They are bowfishers. And they unite a passion for archery with a passion for fishing.

"It's the best of both worlds," says Brooke Benham, an avid bowfisher from Castle Rock.

The sport is relatively new to Colorado, but interest is growing and there are numerous places to test your abilities. Just like fishing with a rod, you can shoot from the shore or from a boat.

Benham says both types offer unique challenges.

A boat provides much more access to any body of water, and the freedom to browse an entire lake means you'll find more areas to shoot.

It doesn't take much to get started in the sport of bowfishing. And it's cheap. You'll need a fishing license and equipment.

"Head to any sporting goods store where the initial purchase (bow, reel, arrow and tips) is pretty affordable and runs about $165," Benham says.

With bowfishing, it's not as simple as see a fish, shoot a fish. The fish you're allowed to shoot are non-native, invasive species that are a detriment to the environment and "outnumber every game fish in lakes," says John Lindell, Colorado Bowfishing Association vice president.

If you want to shoot a high quantity of fish, go out early in the morning or after dusk when the waters are cooler, just like with typical fishing.

The invasive species, such as carp, are "very sensitive to sound, and the cooler the water the slower and more lethargic they are," Lindell says.

"You'll see them sunbathing in the morning with their mouth out sucking water, the 'carp call' I like to call it," says Justin Turnbell, the association's president.

Bowfishers hunt the same areas that most anglers fish, areas with lots of brush and trees.

"Deep brush is carp heaven," Lindell says. "There are lots of insects and shelter from birds who want to eat them."

Benham lists the Platte River and Chatfield Reservoir among her favorite places to bowfish.

"Any lakes, reservoirs or ponds, just not in high elevations because you're less likely to find carp," she says.

There is no limit to the number of invasive species that you can shoot, but you're going to need some luck.

On one Saturday morning, three members of the Colorado Bowfishing Association descended upon Pueblo Reservoir and managed to shoot only one fish. A week later on a lake near Fort Morgan, the trio went out and shot 75 carp.

The fish are not that tasty, but bowfishing is a fun sport and serves a needed purpose by protecting game fish such as trout, walleye, pike and catfish.

Turnbell does have one piece of advice for anyone who plans to try bowfishing: "Be careful, it's addicting."

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