After discovering bowfishing a year ago — literally in his own backyard — Shane Felch of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, put his newly developed skills to good use in April, shooting a 46-pound mirror carp that took down a nearly 20-year-old state record. A lifelong outdoorsman who lost his ability to draw a bow after a 2010 motorcycle accident, Felch boated the carp on Lake Quinsigamond with a special crossbow permit.
Felch, 41, says he grew up chasing freshwater and saltwater fish and hunting “everything from ducks to bears.” But a motorcycle spill that broke three vertebrae in his neck nearly put an end to his outdoor pursuits. “I tried to draw my bow before the season opened and couldn’t,” he says. “Hunting is my passion, so I looked into other ways of doing it.” He found that he qualified for a special crossbow permit that the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife issues to hunters who have a permanent physical disability that prevents them from operating a compound bow.
Felch lives on Quinsigamond, a 4-mile long lake that stretches between Shrewsbury and Worcester. “I was in my back yard one night when I saw a guy with lights on his boat,” he says. “I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was bowfishing. It seemed like a neat way to combine fishing and hunting, so a year ago I decided to give it a try.”
On April 18, Felch set out on one of his roughly 10 annual trips to stalk carp in the shallows of Lake Quinsigamond on his 14-foot V-hull boat. While his friend Devein Duboise (right) ran the trolling motor, Felch manned the crossbow as they explored the weedy stretches on the north side of the lake. At about 9:00 p.m. he spotted a big carp in his lights, but his first shot missed. “He swam into a little point so that he was kind of pinned in, so I reloaded and we drifted a little closer,” Felch recounts. “When I took the shot, he was swimming left to right at a pretty good clip. It was kind of a lucky shot, really.”
The fish towed the boat for a couple of minutes before the line went slack. “I thought the arrow had come out, which happens sometimes. I started to reel in the line when it tightened up again. The fish took off and it was a battle from there. He didn’t stop fighting until I got my hands under his gills and pulled him into the boat. I could barely get him over the side. This thing was a monster — much bigger than he looked under water.”
Felch says that shooting carp is a difficult skill to master. “It’s not easy. It’s not like shooting fish in a barrel, like some people think.” Refraction — the bending of light as it passes through water — makes it necessary to compensate for the distance of the target and its depth beneath the surface. “You’ve always got to adjust where you aim, and it can be pretty tough. I’m probably hitting 10 to 20 percent of my shots.”
Massachusetts requires potential state record fish to be weighed at the MassWildlife headquarters in Westborough or one of five district offices across the state. Felch did not get the carp to Westborough until noon the next day. When biologists converged from all over the building to marvel at the fish, Felch knew he had something special. “I thought he might be a contender, but I had no idea he was as big as he turned out to be. In all my years of fishing, this is the first fish I’ve checked in. They were pretty amazed by it, and I was pretty psyched.”
The mirror carp pinned the scale at 46 pounds, 5 ounces. It broke the prior state record of 44 pounds, 2 ounces set by Roger Pyzocha in 1993. That fish was caught in the Connecticut River on rod and reel.
Not everyone is happy that the new record belongs to a crossbow hunter. “Some people think it’s excellent and some people hate it,” says Felch. “I’m a rod and reel guy, a catch and release guy, and crossbow fishing is a way to add to what I do. But you know what? I’m enjoying it. It’s definitely a good thing.”
And anyone who has a problem with his record can have a crack at it themselves. “I know there’s bigger ones in there, because I’ve seen them,” says Felch, who spied a carp last fall (and twice since) that he estimates outweighs his state-record fish by 20 pounds. “That record ain’t gonna last long.”
_Shane Felch shot a record carp on Lake Quinsigamond with a special crossbow permit that he qualified for after a 2010 motorcycle accident left him unable to draw a bow. The 46-pound mirror carp broke the 20-year-old state record, previously held by Roger Pyzocha in 1993 at 44 pounds.