Earlier this week I got a call from a family in Round Rock asking about the possibility of introducing their 14 year old daughter to the sport of bowfishing. Tonight we gave just that a try. I met Carl and Jenn D. and their daughter, Jess, at Stillhouse for this big adventure.
Jess and her mom, Jenn, are all smiles after 3 hours of persistence paid off in a big way with a Jr. Angler Bowfishing lake record Smallmouth Buffalo!!
Our first hour or so was spent getting equipment adjusted and practicing overcoming the hurdle of light refraction. Jess shoots a recurve and didn’t yet have the reel, fiberglass arrow, or bowfishing line attached, so we got all that taken care of, then began practicing with the rig by shooting at a weighted plastic jug.
If you’re unfamiliar with bowfishing, the most difficult part is training/reminding yourself to shoot much lower than the target appears, as the water literally bends the light rays and makes things appear other than where they are actually located. Jess was able to sink 2-3 arrows in the gallon jug over the course of several attempts, so, we then ventured out to put her into some real-world scenarios to work out the kinks.
We searched the shallows from 9pm to 12:45am using a strong spotlight and found ample fish in shallow water in and around the Area 203 cove, including carp, smallmouth buffalo, and small longnose gar. We only came upon 2-3 short drum all evening.
Jess is a pretty good shot on stationary targets, but, like most beginners, found it a real challenge to shoot targets that were 1) moving, 2) of varying distances and depths, and 3) not where they appeared to be. But, the important part was that she remained focused and persistent and didn’t get flustered after missing a few times.
Around 11:50pm, as we slipped along quietly and parallel to the shoreline, we spotted a fish moving slowly from shallow water out to deeper water, from right to left, thus giving us a broadside view. The water was not churned by the carps’ feeding activity, so, the fish was quite visible. Jess prepared to put her sight on the fish and draw as I let off the trolling motor and let us glide slowly closer to the fish. Jess released her bowstring and the arrow found it’s mark — right in the center of mass of a nice, stocky smallmouth buffalo. As soon as Jess realized she’d hit the fish and was now holding a bow to which a lively fish was attached, she turned quickly to me and ask with just a little concern in her voice, “What to I do?”
I coached her on allowing the fish to wear itself out and not risk pulling the arrow free by pulling against the fish as it was pulling out line, but rather to take in line as the fish allowed. After a few moments we brought the fish to boatside and netted it as mom held the spotlight and dad ran the video!! Jess had broken the ice and had joined the ranks of successful bowfishers!!
A check of the record books following the trip confirmed that no entry for this species had yet been submitted by a bowfisher on Stillhouse. Suspecting this was the case, we took all the required measurements and photos while on the water in order to sumbit an application for Jess’ fish.
This fish measured 23.25 inches and weighed 9.25 pounds.
Jess was now ready for more, but the fish had all but concluded their feed in this first 4-5 hours of darkness and were now much harder to come by. We found a few fairly technical shots for her to take, but, as we closed out the night, the count remained at 1.
Great job, Jess!!