The Idaho State Bowfishing Championship Tournament is July 23-24 at C.J. Strike Reservoir. To mark the occasion, take a look at this interview with Brian Pokorney, president of the Idaho Bowfishing Association, that I conducted in the spring for a BW article on bowfishing for carp.
Boise Weekly: For the layman, what is bowfishing in a nutshell?
Brian Pokorney: Bowfishing is a sport that involves using a bow, whether it is a compound, recurve, long bow or a crossbow with a reel attached holding a special type of line that is attached to a fiberglass arrow specifically designed for bowfishing. It is an act of seeing a fish in the water and trying to shoot that fish. If you miss, then the reel allows you to retrieve the arrow. It is also used to reel in the fish when you actually hit them. The arrows have special barbs on them to prevent from losing the fish while you are retrieving it. It is technically a form of hunting that has been used for ages as a way to acquire food.
What type of fish do you shoot?
In Idaho, the only type of fish that we can shoot are non-game species of fish such as carp, suckers, etc., that are classified by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as non-game and unprotected. Carp are a non-native invasive species that can have an adverse effect on a whole fishery as they feed on the eggs of game fish and reduce the amount of food for them. They reproduce in huge numbers and can take over a body of water if they are not controlled.
Do you need a boat?
You don’t have to use a boat, although it does expand your opportunities. [Usually] we are shooting fish in less than three inches of water, so wading or shooting from the bank are good options as well. However, most tournaments require a boat to be competitive due to the number of fish being harvested and the need for flexibility as to where to go on a particular lake or river.
What time of year is best to bowfish?
Any time of the year is good, but the most productive time is the spring and summer months. The fish really like warm water and hot weather and are usually active all day and night. You need a good pair of polarized sunglasses to see the fish in the water during the day due to glare on the water, but the best time is at night if you have lights and a power source on your boat. There is no glare and the fish are much easier to see and not near as [likely to be spooked] as they are during the day.
Do you eat carp?
I don’t eat the carp and I never have. It's my understanding that because they have many bones and what they eat that they are not very edible without a lot of work to make them taste good. However, I do fish the traditional way for bass, catfish, crappie, perch, trout and other tasty species because fish is one of my favorite foods and I love the sport of catching them as well.
What do you do with the carp?
We have people that take the carp for animal food, as well as fertilizer uses. Sometimes we just bury them to dispose of them. We don’t ever put them back in the water to rot.
How do the competitions work and how is the state champion established?
Our tournaments are set up as a way to get a bunch of people together for a good, friendly competition and a great time, as well as to reduce the population of carp in our favorite bodies of water. We have entry fees for each person, and all the money is paid back to the participants in the top places based on the number of entries received ... We have one big tournament a year in Idaho [July 23-24] that has a larger entry fee and attracts people from all over the Western United States. The winning team is crowned state champions, informally—except for bragging rights—until next season.
We are currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit association so that all funds are used specifically for the club and its events only. We think this is very important, and hopefully we can continue to promote this wildly entertaining sport to the general public, as well as sportsmen around this state and surrounding areas. Washington, Utah and Colorado also have bowfishing associations we support.
For more information on the Idaho Bowfishing Championship Tournament, visit idahobowfishingassociation.com.