Bowfishing for Grass Carp: Solving an Overpopulation Problem

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grass-carp-boat-1000Several years ago, Texas Park and Wildlife granted the city of Austin a permit to stock grass carp in Lake Austin in an effort to counter the rapid growth of hydrilla on the lake. Now those of us who have been around Texas fishing long have seen the pros and cons of the hydrilla plant. It is an invasive aquatic vegetation that can provide excellent cover for species like largemouth bass but too much of it can choke a lake of the primary purpose it serves. This has been the case in many other Texas lakes. The issue with the grass carp is that they eat lots of underwater vegetation and too much of a good thing has now become a major problem for Lake Austin. Many bass fisherman that I know on this lake warned that too many grass carp in would consume ALL of the lake’s vegetation including native aquatic vegetation. Some bass fishermen have warned about this because of the history of it happening on other Texas area lakes.  If you look at Lake Austin now, it is barren of underwater plant cover in many places. What’s more is that the thousands of grass carp that were stocked in this lake were a protected species from fisherman or bowfisherman on the lake until just last month and preventing their harvest only made the problem worse. In September, Texas Parks and Wildlife allowed the harvest of grass carp with no size limit provided the fish were gutted or their head was removed after harvest. You can check out the news story on this change here.

Bowfishing has long been one of my favorite sporting traditions. I started bowfishing 5 years ago after winning a silent auction from Hill Country Bowhunters with GARQUEST Bowfishing Adventures  here in Central Texas. Marty McIntyre, the owner of GARQUEST, has been my key mentor in teaching me the ways of the water and how to bowfish any given lake. Marty’s experience in bowfishing goes back decades and he is someone I love to fish with time and time again. Starting last month, Marty has been guiding bowfishing trips on Lake Austin since this change and having great success harvesting many “grassies” on each trip. His goal was to help rid Lake Austin some of the overpopulation of grass carp and he invited me on one of these trips late last month. I have another trip planned with him on this lake very soon as well. We started out the trip at one of the many local Lake Austin city parks with a boat ramp. We didn’t need to fire up the outboard motor long before we found loads of grass carp trolling along the banks of the lake. We found that Lake Austin’s best kept secret for holding grass carp is the streams and rivers that flow into the lake as well as fishing coves off of the main lake. These places were where we found fish after fish and shot at as many as we could find. Here are some pictures of our trip that night:

grass-carp-catch-800Marty says that he is welcomed by numerous bass fishermen who fish the lake on a regular basis. In fact, he says he hasn’t been welcomed to bowfish on a lake like this by traditional rod and reel fishermen in quite some time. The landscape on the lake at night is pretty clear and it is fairly easy to spot fish with Marty’s floodlights mounted on the front of his custom bowfishing boat. With there being very little vegetation left on the shallower edges of the lake in many places it has made bowfishing a very viable sport on this lake and what a blast it is to have a target rich environment to bowfish! We took several fish that night and I can’t wait to go back again.

To book a grass carp bowfishing trip on Lake Austin with Marty and GARQUEST and help with this overpopulation problem, call him at (254) 931-3474 or email him at [email protected]. Trips typically last 4 hours and are inexpensive compared to many guided trips. Groups are also welcomed.

Bowfishing is one way to turn nature’s problem into a night of fun with friends and family. Many of the grass carp we shot on this lake run when they are hit and make for a fight like none other I have ever experienced in bowfishing. Many of these grass carp are huge in size and it is challenge to bring them into the boat after they are shot as they provide a fight of a lifetime after impaled by the arrow. There are fewer experiences as enjoyable for me than bowfishing an awesome lake with a great bowfishing guide. I love this stuff and I think you will too after you give it a try. Thanks for watching, reading, and listening!

Story by Dustin Warncke

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