, Port Arthur, Texas

April 26, 2014

Chester Moore column: It's time for bowfishing

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     Texas archers can legally shoot any “rough fish” with a bow and arrow. Rough fish include gar (only one alligator garfish per day can be taken), carp, buffalo, grinnel (bowfin), mullet, and stingrays.

    During spring and early summer, gar spawn in very shallow water and offer some tremendous shooting opportunities. Drainage canals are great places to find spawning gar, as are flats in the backwaters of reservoirs.

    Some archers prefer to pursue the fish at night with spotlights, but I prefer bowfishing during the day. Small gar are plentiful at night, but I see far more during daylight hours and personally one 3-5 foot shoot gar for food. These days I pass on the super-sized specimens for conservation reasons.

    Carp are also super fun to hunt.

    I’ll never forget watching my cousin Frank Moore prowl like a cat through the waters of a large canal north of Deweyville. With surprising grace for someone wearing neoprene waders in ankle-deep mud, he scanned the murky waters for potential prey.

    While scanning the shoreline behind me, I noticed him drawing his bow as a huge, yellow tail surfaced in a shallow grass flat, swinging lowly to the side like a ponderous oar. Before I could make out exactly what he was shooting at, a large carp shot out of the water with an arrow in its side, then rocketed away stripping all the line from his retriever rig.

    “It's a big one!” he shouted. “A really big one!”

    The arrowed carp put up a strong fight, cutting a roostertail wake in the shallows despite the arrow through its body. After a considerable struggle, the fish had enough and Frank retrieved it.

    “I told you it was big,” he said as he strained to pick up the heavy fish. “It's going to make great trotline bait.”

    Moore and I had been bowfishing in this canal for the several years and always did well on carp. The one he shot that day probably weighed 20 pounds, but we have shot bigger ones there.

    Some mistakenly look at bowfishing as a sport mainly for the marshy, coastal areas but it thrives throughout the state and according to bowfishing expert Jeff Stewart the dense creek and river bottoms of East Texas are a prime place to shoot a variety of fish.


    “I’m all about hunting the gar in the Sabine River drainage and there are plenty of carp, buffalo and other species throughout East Texas to hunt as well,” Stewart said.

    “Bowfishing opportunities abound state-wide and if someone really wants to have a good time I suggest giving the sport a try. It’s good, clean fun and gives bowhunters something different to do in the off-season.”

    If you plan on getting into bowfishing, I highly recommend getting a “retriever rig,” which consists of a jug-like canister that attaches to the bow, or one of the reel-style bowfishing reels. Some retailers still sell a cheap rig that is basically a round piece of plastic on which the string is wound.

    When I first started bowfishing, I used one of these and the string got tangled on the plastic piece. I watched an arrow shoot out about 10 feet then slingshot back only inches from my face. I could have been blinded or worse. The retrievers and reel-style rigs are more expensive, but well worth the cost in terms of safety.

    There are rough fish to pursue in ever water body in the state and getting set up for bowfishing is pretty cheap in comparison to other aspects of archery. You can use an old compound or recurve with a good fishing rig and be ready to start immediately.

    Be careful though. The sport is reportedly addictive.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at and watch him Saturdays on on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”.)