In these Dog Days of summer, fishing in local waters often becomes slow due to high temperatures and low water conditions. All of which makes many fish lethargic. But instead of pursuing them with rod and reel, why not try a bow and arrow.
Since bowfishing requires a slight change in equipment, most bow fishers favor an inexpensive recurve bow or an old compound bow, outfitting it with a Zebco-type spincast or open reel to retrieve the arrows and land a fish, simple arrow rest and no sights as bowfishing normally requires instinctive shooting. Those, plus a small investment in heavy fiberglass arrows that are needed to penetrate the waters’ surface with fish-point broadheads.
The main quarry for bowfishers are carp. Decent freshwater bowfishing for them can be had in the shallow shorelines and coves of Lake Nockamixon in Upper Bucks County. Another prime place is the feeder creek for Ontelaunee Reservoir in Upper Berks County. This hotspot has several access areas with the closest (to Allentown) located off Route 662 west of Moselem Springs where it intersects with Route 222. You’ll pass Moselem Springs Country Club on the right and farther down McCardels Bar on the left. A short distance away there’s a pull-off near the bridge where you can park your car and walk in along the stream. Any area there is good but chest waders, or if it’s hot, old sneakers and swimming trunks, is all that’s needed to wade the stretch. There’s also an old railroad bridge abutment downriver where arrowing a carp is possible without getting wet.
In Lehigh County, there’s the upper Jordan Creek from the metal bridge and falls in Orefield on up into the Trexler Game Preserve (Trexler Zoo as it’s now called). Beware, however, of snakes up there.
Farther up in northern Lehigh County, Ontelaunee Creek near Leaser Lake is narrow and hiking the shoreline could provide some carp action. “The trick at these places is to look for shallow water near deeper, slow moving water,” says Bob Danenhower of Bob’s Taxidermy who grew up in this area and knows it well.
The Lehigh River and Lehigh Canal shouldn’t be overlooked. When bowfishing the Lehigh River either wade or use a small boat and cruise around the shallow shorelines that are, again, close to deeper water.
As far too many anglers consider carp trash fish, people in Europe and Asia consider them delicacies. Around these parts, bowfishers use them for fertilizer in vegetable and flowerbeds, and if you have a cat or two, they’d love a treat of fresh fish.
If you’re more inclined and are coincidentally vacationing around salt water, some brackish water and tidal flats, stingrays are plentiful and offer good bowshooting practice. Plus, they make good table fare. In fact, Landis Store Restaurant in Berks County usually has them on their menu around this time of year.
Danenhower and his family usually make a yearly visit to Chincoteague Island in Virginia for a two-day skate bowfishing hunt with native guide Randy Birch of Birch’s Outfitters. There they bowfish the tidal shores of Chincoteague Island, which is also a popular summer tourist attraction and famed wildlife viewing area.
In two days bowfishing and on the bow of Birch’s boat, Danenhower said he often spots upwards of 50-plus rays, including Southern, Cow Nose and Butterfly’s. In fact, one year he managed to arrow nine, the largest of which was a hefty 140-pounder that needed two shots to boat while in 3-5 feet of water.
So aside from shooting 3D targets to get ready for the upcoming bow hunting season, give bowfishing a try. It beats staying at home and watching the Phillies get beat.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.