There are plenty of reasons why you should spend a few summer days bowfishing for silver carp. For one thing, the invasive Asian imports are grossly overpopulated and systematically destroying some of our best riverine fisheries. And believe it or not, they’re not bad to eat. They also grow to 40 pounds and leap 6 feet out of the water—often by the hundreds—when startled by the sound of an outboard. Who wouldn’t want to shoot at that?
Silver carp leap at the sound of boat motors, but to really get them going en masse, run your boat in shallow water—10 feet deep or less. On major rivers, that might mean pulling into tributary creeks. Trim your outboard up and give it just enough gas to plow a good wake. If there are fish present, they’ll be jumping in seconds.
Archers need to stand or sit at the transom of the boat. Any bowfishing rig will work, but a reel that allows you to retrieve arrows quickly for follow-up shots, like an AMS Retriever ($80), helps. Most people shoot compounds so they can stay at full draw while the fish are jumping. You can also snap-shoot with a recurve.
Pick Your Shots
On a good run, fish will be everywhere, but wait for one to jump near the boat. When it does, hit your anchor point, track the fish over the end of the arrow, focusing on a spot just underneath it, and let fly as the fish falls back toward the water. Do it right, and your arrow will zip through. If you miss…well, it’s not like you won’t get another chance.
Illustration by Toby Leigh