Move over Robin Hood, Alan Yedor is in the marsh. All you anglers out
there, put away all those fancy rods and reels, tackle boxes, and lures and
experience a different challenge in the fishing world. That's rightĖfishing
for reds, flounder, sheepshead, gar and more with only the use of a bow and
arrow from a boat at night.
This is indeed a different approach to fishing since the bow and arrow
has long gone out with the covered wagon. But for Yedor, vice president of
the Bowfishing Association of America, it is neither forgotten nor
It's a type of fishing that can best be described as fast, furious, and
exciting. To Yedor, the latter becomes quite apparent; all you have to do is
pose a question regarding the sport. "I've shot one alligator gar that
measured over seven foot long and weighed over 160 lbs.," Yedor
elatedly bellowed over the noise of the outboard motor as we headed down a
canal to one of his favorite spots. The sport is fast catching on, and he
claims bowfishing enthusiasts come as far as Aberdeen, S.D., to experience
what the Louisiana marshlands have to offer.
To some, an invitation to go on a bowfishing trip might not seem like
much of a sportĖsomething like shooting fish in a barrel. Nevertheless,
after one observes Yedor in action, the idea of unsportsmenlike is the
furthest thing from the truth.
Not only is keen skill involved, specialized equipment is also essential.
Yedor uses a special-built flatboat that sort of resembles something out of
the movie Water World. But donít be too fooled by looks alone. Everything
aboard is fully functional and enhances the sport of night bowfishing.
For lighting, Yedor uses six 500-watt Halogen lights that are mounted
along the bow section and a quarter way back along the gunwale. Except for
the two stationary lights, located below the elevated deck facing the front,
the other four are adjustable from side to side and up and down.
The electricity for the 120-volt system is supplied by a 4000-watt
gasoline generator. The four adjustable lights are affixed to one-foot
sections of pipe with all wiring neatly out of the way. The lights are aimed
so that the area ahead of the boat is sufficiently illuminated, forming a
crescent band of light that easily penetrates the water's surface. A 5 ft.
by 5 ft. elevated deck sits two feet above the boat's gunwale so that the
shooters arenít affected by glare. Four people can shoot from the platform
if need be.
The boat uses two types of power for maneuver around fishing spots. When the
water isnít too shallow, a trolling motor mounted at center bow keeps the
boat quietly moving through the marsh. If the water is very shallow, a
gasoline-powered fan, set astern and controlled from the cockpit, propels
the boat. The fan works much like an airboat's fan but not as powerful.
After running a few blocks from the Lake Hermitage Marina, located off of
La. Hwy. 23, 25 miles south of Belle Chasse, we were poised and at the
ready, peering down at the water in search of fish.
"The water's murkier than it was the other night," Yedor
remarked, as he held his compound bow loaded with an arrow. Low tide and
high wind conditions were the culprit for reduced water clarity.
Yedor's bow and arrow are specifically designed for shooting fish. The
arrow is devoid of feathers and is four to five times heavier than most
conventional arrows. The head of the arrow has a specially designed
harpoon-type head that keeps the arrow imbedded upon impact. The arrows a
constructed of solid fiberglass and are only accurate within 20 ft.
Once you shoot the fish, you have to get it back to the boat. This is
accomplished by a strong line attached to the tail of the arrow. "You
only need about 30 yard at the most," Yedor said. "I use a 40 lb.
test Fast-Flight line on my bow."
As the boat traveled deeper into the marsh, the water became murkier. But
that didn't hinder Yedor from seeing an obscure sheepshead hiding near a
submerged stump. With bow cocked and arrow aimed, the fish was quickly shot
and brought aboard.
You can tell right away that Yedor has many years of experience with a
bow. When he shoots an intended target, it's done instinctively without
prolonged aiming. After a fish is shot, the line is pulled in while
the boat continues moving along. Once the fish is boated, itís detached
from the arrowhead and places it in an opened plastic drum until the
thrashing subsides. The fish is then placed in an ice chest after it
Several yards down from where the sheepshead was shot, a garfish
frolicked upon the surface. In no time Yedor repositioned himself and shot.
The fish was hit and the battle was on.
While this particular gar was rather small, Yedor has shot many alligator
gars in the 100-pound range that have literally towed his fan-boat around
the marsh like a toy. The hard, scaly covering on these scrappy brawlers
becomes apparent as even when shot at close range the arrow may deflect if
not squarely hit.
When Yedor prepares for this type of fishing, he chooses not to wear
anything bright or flashy that may expose his presence to the fish. Thatís
why Yedor and his crew typically wear dark clothing or camouflage shirts and
pants. This obscurity, of course, pertains also to the bow and arrow
equipment as well, since some archery gear may be too brightly colored.
Being elevated above the water with the lights shining down below,
naturally put Yedor and his crew at a vantage point for finding fish.
Ironically, even at such a strategic location, it's still difficult for the
novice observer to identify the fish under aim until it is actually hit with
Particularly notable was how certain fish responded differently to the
intruding boat. For example, the resonating generator noise caused some fish
to shoot out from nowhere, leaving along the bottom a telltale sign of sandy
cloud trails. While on the other hand, certain other game fish became
disoriented by the intrusive lights, causing them to dart out of sight ahead
of the boat, only to return right within shooting range to be harpooned.
Yedor admits that it may look easy, but much practice goes into being an
accurate shooter. Notwithstanding, Yedor says he can teach the fundamentals
skills to a beginner in a relatively short time, even if they have perhaps
never engaged in archery before.
Soon after Yedor landed the gar, his friend Mike abruptly launched his
arrow and was into a furious brawl with a 10 lb. redfish. Despite being
harpooned with an arrow, the fish put up an incredible battle, thrashing and
splashing water all over the boatís side. Mike vigorously retrieved his
line in, similarly to that of fighting a fish on a rod and reel.
Several other shots were made soon after landing the redfish, but the
arrows missed their intended targets. When this happened, the arrows
penetrated deep into the muddy bottom, which requires a strong and steady
jerk on the line in order to free it.
On occasion Yedor moved so deeply into the shallow marsh that the boat
became stranded in the muck, requiring a push-pole to set it free. Also, as
a result of continuously staring down at the water for fish, it's not
unusual for him to get lost and have to wait for daybreak before finding the
Unlike other types of fishing, Yedor doesn't place a lot of emphasis on tide
movement, other than blaming it for reduced water clarity when it falls.
But he does place importance on the locating of bait fish and other
crustaceans that draw the fish. Knowing where to look also helps, such as
prime locations where smaller ditches drain into waterways and
irregularities along banksides. This where predator fish like to hide
in ambush to feed.
While traveling along the narrow ditches and canals, fish were observed
hiding next to stumps and other objects of cover. At times they seemed to be
stationary with little movement, as though asleep. But don't think for one
moment that these made for easy targets, because the fish frequently and
unpredictably dashed out of harm's way. Added to that was the fact that the
boat never stood still; it was continuously on the move under the thrust of
the trolling motor.
Yedor's main reason for constantly moving is to find clean water, making
it easier to spot the fish. But that can be a formidable task, penetrating
many miles deep into the marsh while relentlessly looking down. However,
Yedor claims heís gotten lost on more than a few occasions and had to wait
for daybreak before he could find his way back.
Despite the tripís low and dirty water conditions, Yedor and Mike still
managed to find and land drum, sheepshead, redfish, flounder, and garfish.
If thereís a choice between bowfishing and rod and reel fishing, Yedor
prefers bowfishing because success of the sport is not highly dependant upon
such factors like tide, wind, and bait. "The fish are going to be
there, and all you have to do is be there too!" he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As of this writing, the Louisiana Department of
Wildlife & Fisheries deems the bow and arrow a recognized and legal
method for obtaining fish from the waters of Louisiana. However, it
is illegal to obtain spotted bass, largemouth bass, black or white crappie,
white bass, yellow bass, striped bass, hybrid bass, or any species of bream
with this method. Check your local area for laws in this regard.
|Captain Alan Yedor:
specialist scans the marsh water for other prospects,
after harpooning this needle nose gar.