Zac Hickle is an avid angler. He could take a rod and reel, tackle box and bait, and sit by the river’s edge to try to catch catfish and a variety of other fish. But he does not do that.
Instead, at home he gets his 6-year old son, Gavin, ready, then hitches up his customized Jon boat loaded with archery fishing gear, life jackets and large tubs, and sets off for the backwaters of the Missouri River.
Hickle, of Elkhorn, is a hardcore bow fisherman.
In fact, he does not even bowhunt for big game animals. His target is nongame fish. He and his son are primarily after Asian carp family members — silver carp, bighead carp and grass carp, as well as common carp and mirror carp. Gar and buffalo are popular targets, too.
It is common for Hickle and his son to shoot more than 500 pounds of nongame fish in a single trip.
Hickle credits his stepdad with introducing him to fishing and fostering his love and appreciation for it. Hickle, who also rod-and-reel fishes and turkey hunts, is passing along the fun and passion of bowfishing to his son.
“Bowfishing is unlike anything else in the outdoor world, and it can be anything you want it to be,” Hickle said.
On a recent bowfishing expedition for nongame fish on the Missouri River with Zac, Gavin and off-duty Nebraska conservation officer Rich Berggren, I can vouch for the fact that bowfishing is a highly addicting, unique outdoor lifestyle. It had been some 40 years since I nocked an arrow for fish on the water, and I cannot wait to get back on that big river to bowfish again.
Men, women and children of various ages are gearing up for bowfishing excitement on rivers, creeks, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. It also appears to be growing increasingly popular among hunters and regular anglers.
What is really behind the growth in the popularity of bowfishing? Having done it, I think the answer may be simple.
This outdoor lifestyle is fun. It provides nonstop, fast-paced action and requires little monetary investment. It also is an excellent way for bowhunters to stay sharp with their skills and keep shooting throughout the spring and summer months at considerable numbers of nongame fish, most notably Asian carp.
Bowfishing also gives a person an opportunity to explore the wilds of backwater and wetland habitats, which contain a variety of interesting wildlife species to see.
Unlike archery deer hunting or hook-and-line fishing, bowfishing does not mandate that you sit and remain quiet, either. It is an incredibly social sport, often taking place on a moving boat with much conversation. Some moments are slow, but they quickly can give way to moments of mayhem and thrill when a large school of silver carp are swimming and jumping everywhere.
For more information on bowfishing, including tips, Asian carp cooking method, regulations, and youth mentoring programs, read my blog, “In the Wild,” at OutdoorNebraska.org.