My favorite fish to go after, carp are one of the key targets when it comes to bowfishing. Considered a rough fish in the United States, carp have proven a thorn in the side of local ecologies across the United States as this invasive fish species threatens to overrun the local fish populations like the salmon and trout. Luckily, bowfishermen who go after carp have helped to control the populations. Let’s have a look at some of the tips for bowfishing carp.
Tip #1: Use the Right Bait
Before you attempt to bait carp, you should first check the local regulations because this can be illegal in some jurisdictions. Baiting carp is one of the most effective ways that you can lure them in close for a bowshot. Some of the different baits that you can use for them include:
- Dog food
- Hemp seed
- Tiger nuts
- Regular boilies
- Homemade dough baits
If you want one that will bring them in, try the Frenzied Original Hempseed. This brings the carp in close enough to put an arrow in them. You might use it to chum carp the area, but if you get hungry, you can also eat them.
Tip #2: Hit Their Feeding Spots
Want to know where to find carp? Check the places they hang out like the lily pads. You might watch the lily pads for unnatural movement, look more closely and take a shot. You will also find it helpful to put on a pair of polarized sunglasses because this makes it easier to spot them in the water, while lowering the reflection of the sun.
A pair of Maui Jim Guardrails Aviator Sunglasses especially work well for this purpose. These sunglasses have a lightweight frame, and because they’re polarized, they eliminate the reflection off the water while making it easier to see the carp in the water.
Along with the lily pads, you might also find the carp sunning themselves in the shallows during the day. As a bowfisherman, this especially becomes important because of how you need shallow water to take successful shots at the carp. In some cases, you can also find them hiding under a dock or under a tree to escape from the sun, and it provides them with some protection from predators.
Tip #3: When to Bowfish for Carp
Perhaps the best time to go bowfishing for carp comes around early spring. During this time, a lot of people like to go bowfishing for carp because of how they don’t taste as fishy during this time. The flavor is better for the carp.
Not to mention, you want to go bowfishing for them in the spring of the year because of how the weeds haven’t grown up much, which makes them the perfect target during this time. Fishing for them in the fall of the year is also a good time to go bowfishing for carp.
Let’s say that you want to go bowfishing for them in the summer months. You will either want to go after them during the night hours, or you will want to go after them in the early afternoon. For the spring of the year, the morning and the evening will be best. Although, a lot of bowfishermen prefer to go after them at night because of how the lights will illuminate them.
If you decide to go bowfishing for carp in the winter months, you might decide to go do it during the middle of the afternoon because the water temperatures will be at their highest, which is when the activity will be at its best.
Tip #4: Look for Consistent Food Source
If you want to know where to find carp on the river, look for an area with a consistent food source. River carp will expend more energy because of the current, which means that they will also have to eat more often as well. The carp on the river like to live close to the food sources. Look for this, and you will find the carp.
In general, areas like this tend to be the inlets and the outlets on the river. You might also find carp in areas that connect the river with a lake or a creek. That’s because these areas tend to be rich in nutrients. The current in an area like this will deposit lots of food, which makes them a rich choice. As a bowfisherman, you may want to check here to see what you can find.
Tip #5: Know What Carp Eat
How can you know where to check for carp if you don’t know their food sources? Some of the things that carp eat include:
- Larvae and pupae
- Water plants
- Fish eggs
- Aquatic worms
Look for things like this, and you will be able to find the carp more easily. In general, carp won’t stray too far from a good food source. That goes for a lot of fish. Also, the fish on lakes and rivers don’t evenly distribute themselves across the lakes and rivers. You have some areas where the fish will be more common than others.
Tip #6: Spawning Season
Perhaps one of the best times that you can bowfish carp, spawning season happens in the spring to the early summer. They will be at their most vulnerable during this time, and because of how this fish is an invasive and destructive species, you usually can take as many as what you’d like.
You will want to look for its spawning ground at around 3 to 5 feet deep. As the carp spawn, they will disturb the bottom of the river or lake. This causes murky water, and the females can produce up to 300,000 eggs in a single spawn. This is one of the most fun times to go bowfishing because you will have many chances to take a shot.
Considering that these fish are invasive, that is one of the reasons that bowfishermen should be praised as guardians of the environment. They keep this fish population from getting out of control. You can take as many as you can shoot in most cases.
Tip #7: Why Bowfish for Carp After Dark
In general, you will usually find that the carp don’t spook as easily after nightfall. You will have more chances to take your shot. In addition, you don’t scare them off quite as easily. A lot of bowfishermen have used fishing for them at night to take the shots at them.
Tip #8: Make Sure Your Bow is Sighted In
You won’t even use your sight in the vast majority of shots. Usually, you take what is known as snapshots with bowfishing, and you will take shots from 20 yards or less. A lot of the time, the shots get taken from close up. Practice shooting from close up.
Make sure that you have sighted in your bow properly before you take it to the water. You don’t want to head to the river only to find that you haven’t had your bow properly sighted in.
Tip #9: Account for Light Refraction
When you take your shots at the carp, you have to account for light refraction. The water distorts what you see. Many times with new bowfishermen, I will often tell them to pretend like they want to miss the carp. If you aim directly for the fish, I guarantee that you will miss it.
Why does light refract happen? If you have ever seen a prism, lens or glass of water, you will know how it bends the rays of light. This is what makes the fish appear in a different position from what it is in.
I say aim low but what do I mean by it? Unfortunately, you don’t have a simple answer for this. How low you have to aim will depend on the angle of the fish, your approach, the depth of the water and the size of the fish. Accounting for these things, you will have to practice this a few times to get the hang of it. In fact, it’s not uncommon as a beginner to miss your first 50 shots.
Tip #10: Cloudy, Windy or Rainy?
On cloudy, windy or rainy days, don’t waste your time with bowfishing. You will find spotting the fish on days like this next to impossible because either the light is too low, or the water is too disturbed to see the fish. In general, your best time to spot the fish in the water will be in the middle of the day because direct sunlights makes it easier to spot the fish.
You can still do the early morning hours or the later evening, but it can be harder to spot the carp. Polarizard sunglasses can help you with this. Nevertheless, it isn’t a silver bullet cure either.
Tip #11: Carp Spook Easily
How you dress should account for this because the carp spook easily especially during the day. If you move too fast, or they see your clothes which don’t mirror the environment, they might swim away before you get the chance to take your shot. Even with your footfall, don’t make too heavy of a footfall, or they will vanish fast.
Carp are one of the smarter fish, and you have to sneak up on them. You could compare bowfishing to bowhunting in many ways because you have to stalk your prey. Use camouflage clothing or earth-tone clothing to help yourself blend in while bowfishing and get an edge.
If you plan to bowfish in an environment with a lot of woods, the earth-tone clothing works best. Those who will shoot off a dock or boat with a steep bank, you may want to use something that is either the color of the sky or a water pattern color because they will see the sky, and you want it to blend in. For those along a channel with boulders and sand, a neutral gray works best.
Tip #12: Bleed out Your Fish
After you have shot your carp and brought him in to shore, you will want to knock him out using a fish club. Next, you will take out your fillet knife and cut his gills. You want to do bleed out your fish because of how it will give it a better flavor of the fillet than if you don’t. Especially since a lot of people complain about the flavor of carp, this can help.
It tastes of a lot higher quality when you do bleed them out. To do this, you slice the gills on both sides, put them on a stringer in the water for between 10 to 15 minutes. After they have bled out, you will fillet the fish immediately. Then you put them on ice in your cooler.
Don’t worry about doing this perfectly. You can do a better job at filleting it once you get back home. The KastKing Fillet Knife 9 Inch is a good set of fillet knives that I would recommend.
Tip #13: Don’t Pull Too Hard or Too Light
After you have secured your carp at the end of your arrow, you want to reel him in a lot like how you would crank in with regular fishing. You have to exercise caution not to pull too hard or too lightly because of how it can lead to the fish coming off the arrow. In some cases, the fish gets off, which is bad because of how the fish will still die because you pierced it.
Tip #14: Look for Pulsating Eccentric Rings
While to the untrained eye, it doesn’t look like much. When you see pulsating rings in the water, it could be a sign that you have some fish activity in the water.
You should first wait to accurately identify the carp before you take a shot because it may not always be a carp. It could be another fish, waterfowl or even a turtle. However, the pulsating rings could be a sign that you have a carp filter feeding or eating vegetation lower in the water.
Be patient and spend time analyzing the water.
Tip #15: Get a Bow Dedicated to Bowfishing
I don’t recommend that you go out there and use your best deerhunting bow for carp. I have a big reason for this. Unlike with bowhunting whitetail, you will find that your bow bumps and bangs around a lot in the bowfishing boat. Bowfishing is hard on bows.
For that reason, you might wiser to pay for a bow specifically tailored to bowfishing. One of the better choices on the market as a bowfishing bow is the PSE Archery D3 Bowfishing Compound Bow. A bow tailored specifically to bowfishing will work best because of its water resistance, and it will be built to handle rough handling in the boat.
The more you go bowfishing for carp, the better you will get at it. In general, I’d recommend that you avoid bowfishing for carp in areas where you don’t have a rocky bottom because of how this can dull your arrow. You don’t want to have that problem when you go bowfishing because the arrow will help you to take the carp.