"My First" by Frank Richardson

What a Catch

     Matt told me that his main goal with West Shore Outfitters is to share his vast knowledge of bow fishing with his clients, and to provide them with an outstanding experience.

     The more we talked about bow fishing, the more I wanted to give it a try. By the time the weekend was over, Frank and I had booked an afternoon and night trip for the end of May. Matt could not tell me exactly where we would be bow fishing, as he wanted to wait until closer to our trip to be sure we were in the location with the best action. 

     I’ve bow hunted for over ten years and Frank has been at it for a couple of years, but neither of us had ever been bow fishing. As the month of May slipped away, our anticipation and excitement over our upcoming trip with Matt kept building. About a week before our trip, Matt told us we would be going to a couple of different brackish locations in Central Florida, which would allow us to try for tilapia, catfish, mullet, and gar.  As Frank and I watched Matt back the boat into the water at our first location, we watched a couple of guys that were bow fishing in front of the landing. I saw them doing a lot of shooting, but never bringing up a fish when they retrieved their arrows. I joked with Frank that we would have to shoot better than that, but was I ever in for a surprise! 

     After we got situated in the boat, Matt gave us instructions on how to nock the arrow, depress the button on the reel, shoot, and then retrieve the arrow after the shot. We would be shooting low poundage compound bows with no sights. He told us that we would have to aim under the fish we were shooting at, and the actual depth of the fish we were shooting at would dictate how far under we would aim. He also familiarized us with the boat, a 20’ Alumacraft with a 4 stroke 115hp Yamaha and a powerful Minkota trolling motor. He then showed us the small Honda generator we would use to power the lights on the bow of the boat for our night time shooting.

     Frank and I made our way to the bow of the boat and fumbled around with getting the arrows knocked. We immediately spotted a school of mullet swimming by and we started letting the arrows fly. Shot after shot we both missed, and soon I was a little more sympathetic of the guys we had been watching while Matt was launching the boat. Matt also grabbed his bow to give us some pointers, and pretty soon he had our first mullet of the night! Frank and I kept shooting and missing, but on what seemed like my 100th or so shot, the mullet I was shooting at went sliding sideways through the water as my arrow finally connected! In disbelief, I reeled in my first ever bow fishing kill!

     As the afternoon went on, Frank and I kept shooting and missing, but having a blast doing so. Matt kept shooting to make sure we had enough fish at the end of the evening for a meal. As the sun set, it became very difficult to see the fish, so Matt suggested we take a break to wait for darkness. When it was dark, he would fire up the generator and the powerful lights on the front of the boat would make it easier to see the fish. With our arms and backs hurting, we gladly took a seat and enjoyed a break while we waited for darkness.

     Matt fired up the generator and immediately we could see very clearly down into the water. Gone was the glare from the clouds and the sun. The fish seemed easier to spot, and before I knew it, I was reeling in my first tilapia. Frank began to get a little frustrated, now that I had two fish in the boat. As we neared some cat tails, a school of gar made their way towards the boat. Frank took aim at the first one to come by the boat. He immediately started whooping and hollering as he tried to reel in the big fish. I stepped to the bow and shot another one of the gars, so we were actually doubled up reeling in fish at the same time!

     Before the evening was over, Frank and I both managed to hit a few more fish, and mostly due to Matt’s shooting skills, we ended the evening with approximately 120lbs of fish! After taking some photos or our fish at the boat ramp, Frank and I headed back home to North Florida.

     Worn out from the night’s fun, I slept in until almost noon. I finally crawled out of bed and then got up and cleaned the fish. After showering, we loaded up the truck and headed to Cedar Key, to help out at the Wounded Warrior hog hunt. Frank and I had volunteered to help out with the event, which was to thank some of our wounded veterans by taking them on a hog hunt. Frank and I were helping out as the skinning crew. There were many volunteers, and one of those was my good friend, Cole Berger. Cole owns Sportsman’s Gold Marinades and he had volunteered to cook and provide the main course for lunch. He served up some delicious pulled pork sandwiches that had been marinated in Sportsman’s Gold Boar No More, and he also let us sample some of his new barbeque sauces.

     While we were enjoying our lunch, Frank and I told Cole about our bow fishing excursion and how much fun we’d had. We introduced him to Capt. Matt, and before you know if, we had made plans for the three of us to meet Matt for a bow fishing trip for the second weekend in June.

     The day finally arrived and we met Cole and Matt at the landing. We had barely left the landing before Cole had his first mullet in the boat. Frank and I shot much better the second time around, hitting several mullet in the first hour. All three of us arrowed big gar, which put up quite a fight. By the time the evening was over, both Frank and I had blisters on our fingers from shooting so much! It was non stop action from when we put the boat in, until we got back to the landing! I would estimate that each of us shot close to 300 times during the trip! Once again, we had an incredible afternoon and evening of bow fishing, and left with big grins and an ice chest full of fish.

     If you have never tried bow fishing, I highly recommend giving it a try! To contact Captain Matt Northcutt, call him at 352-572-6924