As the 2018 Central Texas Boat Show opened its doors Friday, a local “who’s who” of outdoor
enthusiasts were ready manning their booths and engaging with the boating and fishing public.
I struck up a conversation with longtime local bowfishing guide Marty McIntyre. I incorrectly assumed successful bowfishing was limited to the warmer months.
McIntyre enthusiastically spoke of finding ample quantities of large buffalo fish in shallow, clear water all through January and February.
At its most basic level, bowfishing in Central Texas typically consists of stealthily searching out large nongame species of fish in clear, shallow water and harvesting them using archery equipment designed specifically for this application. Once an arrow is released, a successfully skewered fish is fought and retrieved using a line attached to the arrow which is stored on some manner of spool or reel affixed to the bow.
As with any form of fishing, consistently successful bowfishers will choose their conditions wisely.
McIntyre prefers calm nights following a string of calm days and an ambient air temperature at 40 degrees or warmer.
Fish tend to inhabit shallow water much more consistently at night. In order to illuminate the water surrounding the boat so fish may be seen, McIntyre relies on a bank of high pressure sodium lights powered by an onboard generator.
With the lights casting a halo of light around the boat’s perimeter, he and his clients stare intently into the water looking for movement and the dark forms of fish. Belton and Stillhouse typically offer shots at a multitude of species including common carp, buffalo, freshwater drum, large gizzard shad and multiple species of gar.
On McIntyre’s most recent trip in early January, his clients were presented with and took over 100 shots.
When asked about his favorite time of year, it was no surprise that McIntyre identified that time of year many fishermen prefer — in the spring as the water warms to 65-70.
McIntyre provides all of the equipment for his clients, whether left-handed or right, and is a patient coach able to help rookies be successful and help more advanced archers hone their skills.
Meet the Man (and his dog)
McIntyre has one of his four bowfishing boats on display at the Bell County Expo Center this weekend.
Interested anglers can meet and speak with him prior to the show’s close today at 6 p.m. Those visiting the booth will be immediately drawn by “Ivy,” McIntyre’s little dog which accompanies him on all trips and is known to sit nearest the best archer in each party McIntyre takes out.
Youth visiting McIntyre’s booth will have the opportunity to shoot a compound bow from the deck of McIntyre’s boat at a submerged target in a pool erected on the Expo Center floor.
This setup allows archers to gain an appreciation for the impact that refraction of light has on aiming.
As light enters the water, it bends. Therefore, targets are not exactly where they appear to be. Good bowfishers learn to account for refraction and aim below where their target appears to be.
I personally had the opportunity to take my brother, Andy Maindelle, and my nephew, Trent Maindelle, on a guided bowfishing trip with McIntyre on Stillhouse some time ago as a high school graduation present. We all shot and landed fish, we all learned a lot, and we all had fun and made memories we speak fondly of to this day.
One of the things that stands out in my mind is how, even though I am quite familiar with Stillhouse with having fished it for over two decades, the lake’s sights and sounds under the cover of darkness made it seem a different lake entirely.
We saw night creatures stalking the water’s edge on the land and more life in the water than is seen during daylight hours. Owls could be heard hooting in the cedars and raccoons could be seen scurrying along the bank looking for their next meal.
An evening on the water with McIntyre will not disappoint.