Bringing Light to Night Bowfishing

Working it out on land in daylight pays off for nighttime fishing for Cap'n Larry.  THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Working it out on land in daylight pays off for nighttime fishing for Cap’n Larry. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Fishtackular Fishing Advise by Cap'n Larry Jarboe  THE CHESAPEAKE

Last month, I started a major boat outfitting project. Setting up a vessel for nighttime bowfishing is not a particularly easy undertaking though I have heard of ways to do so.

The easiest means to shoot fish in the darkness was related to me by Mr. Zimmerman in Loveville. He told me about a couple young Mennonite archers armed with a searchlight, canoe, bow and arrow. On their first outing to a Potomac River tributary, they shot 13 Northern Snakehead fish. That’s a pretty good score for minimum cost and zero fuel consumption.

Most of the bowfishing boats that are showing up around Southern Maryland are flat bottom aluminum rigs that have a raised bow to shoot from. However, a fiberglass tri-hull or a modified V-bottom boat can work well. Stability is key to shooting success.

There is much debate among bowfishermen across the Country regarding lighting configurations. Many boaters like the quiet minimum maintenance, low wattage direct current LED light configurations that use a battery bank for power. Other bowfishermen swear upon their high power HPS (High Pressure Sodium), halogen, or metal halide lights powered by an AC generator that hums through the night.

 Catfish Larry Jarboe photo for The Chesapeake Today by Bill Davis

Catfish Larry Jarboe photo for The Chesapeake Today by Bill Davis

Most of the winners in the Smallwood State Park Snakehead Tournament used generators and HPS lights to blast light through the murky water to shoot the highest numbers of fish. The universal constant is the Honda 2000i generator that provides excellent power and fuel economy with minimum noise. That little 2000 watt generator is going to set you back over a thousand dollars if you purchase one new. However, used ones are only a couple hundred dollars less on eBay or Craigslist. Thanks to their quality and superior options, those Honda EU inverter series gensets have very little depreciation. That is some consolation for paying over a grand for a 2000 watt generator.

Bow fishing on the Potomac - targets skates and snakehead fish.  THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

Bow fishing on the Potomac – targets skates and snakehead fish. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

My rig is a 16 foot long Smokercraft with a modified V-bottom. I have raised the front deck and placed a 70 lb. thrust 24 volt Minnkota trolling motor in the bow for self-tending. Though many of the younger archers are opting for radio remote controls, I am starting with an extended tiller for both simplicity and low cost.

Two 400 watt, 120 volt metal halide waterproof floodlights are mounted in the bow. HPS soft yellow light might be better in the muddy waters that prevail in our tributaries, but I recycled the MH lights from a past mill project. It’s hard to beat the price of already paid for. Hopefully, the bright white light can be buffered with nighttime wraparound glare resistant glasses.

The major distinction of this particular boat is the Bimini top framework that is a combination of leaning post, bow rack, and 12 volt lighting and searchlight holder. At my age, reduced level of dexterity, and penchant for fishing alone, this is a personal option that might save me another dunking by falling off the boat. Been there, done that. More than once.

Two of the most important factors of fishing at night are having numerous lighting options to see with and a Plan B means to motor home. The Smokercraft has two twelve volt battery systems, a 24 V trolling motor power pack, and a soon to be purchased 2000 watt Honda AC generator. Lighting is provided by the floodlights, a 12 volt searchlight, and an overhead anchor light. And, let’s not forget the Maglite. The outboard motor and trolling motor offer a couple different means to power both to, through, and from those remote creeks back to the security of the public ramps along the rivers.

So, that’s where the project stands so far. It would be a lot easier to throw my canoe, paddles, 12 volt battery and searchlight into the back of my pick-up truck. Add one Mennonite in the front seat of the canoe with a bow and arrow on a reel and we’re going night bowfishing.

Larry Jarboe – bass21292@yahoo.com

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The Chesapeake Legends Yarns and Barnacles. Click to hear free 5 min. sample

The Chesapeake Legends Yarns and Barnacles. Click to hear free 5 min. sample
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