The combination of running into a guy out bow-hunting carp the other day (legally reducing the trash fish) and the recent runoff into all our local sloughs and bypasses brought back some of my best teen years fishing and out on the west side of the Valley in the small community of Burrel. It was the perfect place for a country kid to grow up.
The era was during the late ’60s and I was barely in high school. One of my favorite things to do back then (between my chores) was to take the old Ford and drive to the Burrel slough. I would sneak around all the weirs and shallow backwaters crisscrossing the area, never knowing what kind of special treasures I might find. Bass, crappie, catfish, small stripers and huge carp were almost always around, because most of the area was usually flooded with water in the spring. Later, when the water receded, the fish would move into the warm shallow backwaters to spawn. I was waiting!
The place was wonderful because it had cattails everywhere, small little pockets of water, culverts in which crappie could mass, and lots of shallow, grassy areas where huge carp gathered to spawn. Of course, the big fish thrashing around during the spawn drew my attention. I asked my Dad how I could catch these behemoths?
He took me out to our large farm shop and began fashioning a detachable metal arrow tip that would fit right over the tip of a blank arrow shaft, but come off easily too. He then took some braided line and tied it to the detachable metal head. He then took an old Folger’s coffee can, and cut it horizontally, so that the two metal flaps could be taped to the front of my bow with the bottom of the can pointing forward. This held the wrapped line attached to my arrow. The coffee can was a perfect spool for the line to be hand-wrapped around and of course each time you shot the arrow the line played out from the can, with the other end of it tied to the arrowtip. Testing the rig out, I found out that putting a rubber band on the shaft held the line in place when you shot the arrow. It was the finishing touch to greater accuracy! The line fed off the can better than I could have hoped when I shot the arrow.
The idea was to shoot the carp with the arrow, that went through the carp , then the metal head would detach on the other side and you pulled the fish in with the line fixed to the arrowhead.
The whole thing was a little top-heavy, but I was in business! So off to the slough I went, with my newfound weapon of mass carp destruction!
My first carp was epic as I waded out in the 1½ foot water looking for an easy target finning in the heavy grass. I got a nice 5-pound carp the very first try. Wow!
I began my career as a carp hunter and in little time I was chalking up some nice bulgemouths. The warm water was perfect for them. I homed in on bigger and bigger ones. One day I got two with one shot. “Boy, I’m only 15 and I’m getting good,” I thought! A boy’s step toward confidence.
The apex of my carp career came as I drove down the dirt road next to my hunting grounds, when I saw a fish with a huge back sticking a good 4 inches out of the water! A monster! Sneaking down, it looked massive. I began to get “buck fever” as I crept up. The fish was just a few feet away as I drew my bow back and fired. Oops! Just as I released the arrow, my custom metal arrowtip slipped off! I hit the unsuspecting monster directly in the side with a blank shaft arrow. The resulting explosion soaked me completely.
I didn’t hunt them much after that, but I recall it being a key adventure for me, one that fueled the vision of catching a big fish one day! Our dreams drive us! Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at facebook.com/Rogergeorgeguideservice and @StriperWars on Twitter.