CARP ART -- These
two monsters were taken by bowfishermen at Roosevelt Lake. The big
scales make carp great for the Japanese fish printing art of
Photo and story by Margie Anderson
Carp are not the most attractive fish in
the lake, and many anglers actively dislike them. They are
considered a nuisance and worse because they eat the eggs of other
fish and they are constantly stirring up the mud in the shallows,
which also interferes with the spawning processes of other fish.
Adult carp feed by sucking up mud then spitting it out. This lets
them select the bits they want to eat while everything is floating
The females can deposit up to a million eggs a season, but the
average is about 300,000. Still, that’s a lot of eggs, and they
really roll around during the spawn, so they make quite a commotion
that you can hear from a long way off.
Carp don’t endear themselves to many, so naturally people have
often tried to get rid of them. About the only good way to do this
is to poison the whole lake, then put back only the "good" fish.
On the up side, carp are a major food source just about
everywhere in the world except North America. Most of us think they
taste like mud.
But still, there are some die-hard carp fishermen in America, and
some of them even insist on catch and release! Others kill every
carp they get their hands on, and one of the more popular ways to go
after carp is bowfishing.
Bowfishing combines hunting and fishing. You can bowfish from
shore, but most bowfishermen hunt from a boat.
Some of them are rigged up with elevated platforms that make it
easier to see into the shallows. All you really need is a bow and a
way to prowl shallow water quietly.
It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to become a bowfisher. There
are no legal poundage restrictions for bowfishing, so it’s an ideal
sport for kids, and you don’t have to invest in expensive gear when
you first start out. You can use whatever bow you like, even a
crossbow, but a recurve bow is usually easier, especially when
you’re just starting out, because you don’t have to draw it all the
way back like you do a compound bow.
You’ll also need a big reel spooled up with at least
80-pound-test braided line. A big Zebco 808 or 888 is ideal, and you
should mount it on a stabilizer.
You can find all the equipment you need at a good sporting goods
store like Sportsmans Warehouse or in the Bass Pro or Cabelas
catalog, and don’t forget the eye protection. Good sunglasses will
not only protect your eyes, they’ll make it a lot easier to see into
There are many different arrowheads to choose from, but one of
the more popular ones for carp is Sure-Shot. This is a round
arrowhead with prongs that reverse with a simple twist, so they hang
on while you reel the fish in, but come out easily as soon as you
want them to.
Fiberglass arrows are more durable than aluminum for bowfishing.
They’re heavy and slow, but they do the job.
You might be thinking that the line is tied to the end of the
arrow, but NEVER do that. When you release the arrow, a trailing
loop of line can tie itself to the bowstring and snap back.
You can get seriously hurt doing that. You should always use a
cabled arrow or a safety slide to keep the line in front of the
Once you’ve got yourself outfitted, you need to find carp,
buffalo fish, tilapia, goldfish, or shad to shoot. They’re all legal
for bowfishing, and carp in particular are easy to find.
Old Bugle Lips (as they are fondly called) reside almost
everywhere in Arizona where there is water. The Game and Fish
Department calls them "under-utilized" and is really happy when they
can get people to take them.
Jim Warneke (Mesa office of G&F) even holds "Camp Carp" every
summer at Apache Lake to try to stir up interest.
Roosevelt, Apache, Saguaro, Pleasant, Canyon – all of these lakes
have carp. Roosevelt and some of the other Salt River lakes are good
for buffalo fish, too.
Alamo has tilapia, and the Colorado River lakes are loaded with
carp. December and January are good times for tilapia.
They start to die off then, and they come up shallow where you
can get to them. Check the Fishing Regulations booklet to find
bowfishing waters near you, and remember that you do need a fishing
license to take carp.
Stealth is key when you’re bowfishing. Use the trolling motor
only when you have to, and keep the boat in the shallows. Try not to
let your shadow fall across the fish.
If you spook one, hang around. They often come back. Last but not
least, remember that refraction will make you miss if you aim right
at the fish. Aim low and let go.
What to do with your carp once you’ve got them? Well, you can eat
them. Jim Warneke has several recipes you can try. They also make
very good fertilizer if you hack ‘em up and dig them into the
Camp Carp will be held May 5 and 6 this year, at either Roosevelt
or Apache Lake. All you have to do is show up, and you’ll have a
The Game and Fish guys will teach you how to catch carp, and
they’ll probably even cook some for you. Call (480) 981-9400 to
reach the Mesa Office of the Game and Fish Department, or log on to
www.azgfd.gov for more details.