"OF BOWS, BLUES AND BUFFALO " by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Seven Points Texas- The sweltering late summer sun was shrouded in a thin veil of clouds and quickly approaching the western horizon as Mark Balette and I launched his bowfishing boat, Garzilla, into a 250 acre lake owned by my friend Donny Rice. Ive enjoyed many summer evening bow fishing trips with Mark through the years and had a very good idea of the excitement the evening would provide. Stowed in the rod holders were a couple of medium action rods rigged for drift fishing for catfish. We wanted to make the most of this outing! Ive fished the Trinity River and Lake Livingston with Mark in the past but this outing was different. We were on private waters and had the whole place to ourselves. On top of a scenic hillside about a mile distant, was a comfortable lodge where, after our arms were sore from launching arrows in the wee hours of the morning, we could crash for a comfortable nights sleep. No driving two hours to get back home after this shoot! Rice teamed with guide/outfitter Cory Vinson of Guaranteed Guide Service to provide hunters and fishermen with a close to the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex outdoor paradise. With around 600 acres of water within close proximity to the Trinity River and plenty of shallow marshes with abundant feed, the Rice Ranch has everything needed to attract and hold migrating ducks. Last winter, well over 1,000 snow geese wintered here and several hundred acres will be planted in wheat this fall, which will provide the geese with plenty of feed and a reason to cut their migration to the coast short. Vinson is offering a few season leases for waterfowl, hog hunting and fishing. Balette is the onboard bowfishing pro and is currently taking folks out for an evening of bowfishing that is guaranteed to help them escape the summer doldrums. Mark and I had plenty of time to drift fish for the lakes plentiful blue catfish before dark and we soon had fresh shad rigged on circle hooks. Garzilla was positioned close to the north end of the lake and a gently southerly breeze pushed the big craft silently over the lakes surface. The sight of some big alligator gar rolling gave promise of the exciting shooting the evening would afford. Near the shoreline, we could hear that tell-tale sucking sound of carp and buffalofish as they fed in the shallows. We rigged floaters about 6 feet above the baits, actively feeding blue catfish often suspend up from the bottom. Our plan was to cover lots of water, presenting our bait to catfish holding along the side of the many humps and ridges created by heavy equipment back in the day when the waters we were fishing was a huge sand and gravel mining operation. Photo courtesy of Luke Clayton. Blue catfish will definitely follow the scent trail that is left from really fresh bait. Its common to have blues, even the bigger ones, tap-tap on a bait and then, after following the scent of a fresh bait as far as 50 yards, finally take the bait. Shad or sunfish heads trigger the most strikes. When cutting these baits, its important to make a diagonal cut from just behind the head back to near the bottom of the fish, just behind the lower fins. This leaves the insides attached to the head and greatly increases the amount of scent dispersed into the water. The head is tough and stays on the hook well, which is important when the fish bite tentatively a few times before grabbing the bait more aggressively. Garzilla drifted along for fifty yards when my floater disappeared, then Marks danced merrily along near the surface, then we lost sight of it. I felt the strong tug of a catfish for a few seconds but the hook was not set and the fish dropped the bait. Marks 7 foot rod bent heavily toward the lakes surface and he was obviously hooked solidly to a hard pulling blue cat. With the reels drag set relatively light, the fish made a couple of strong runs before succumbing to the steady pressure. Big fish can be landed with relatively light tackle. Using reels with smooth drag systems set with just enough tension to tire the fish but not so tightly as to allow the line to break is important. We enjoyed this pleasant style of fishing until just before dark, then pulled up to shore and filleted our catch. We had things planned perfectly to allow time to head back to the lodge and prepare a big wok full of fajitas. I slow smoked a ham from a small feral hog a couple days before, cut the meat into fajita strips and marinated them overnight. Rice joined us with his 10 year old son, Devin and we enjoyed a tasty wild game dinner, then back to the lake where we again loaded into Garzilla. Photo courtesy of Luke Clayton. With a generator aboard to fuel a powerful lighting system, the illumination from Garzilla could probably have been seen from space! Mark positioned himself in the bow, and used the trolling motor to ease us along, about 20 yards out from shore. Rough fish, carp, buffalofish and drum could be seen scooting out of the way and an occasional gar would pause near the surface. Bowfishing is definitely an action sport and in private waters stocked regularly by the Trinity River during flood conditions, the action was fast paced. We were using recurve bows with big spincast reel, shooting instinctively. Sights would be next to useless is this spot, draw and release type shooting. It became obvious early into the outing that we had a young bowfisher in the making. Young Devin drilled the second fish he shot at and took to the sport like an 8 month old Lab on his first duck hunt! After a few hours of steady action, Mark pulled Garzilla up to the bank and we jumped in the trucks and headed back to the lodge for a cool shower and good nights sleep, at lease part of a good nights sleep. As the old saying goes, it doesnt take long to spend the night here, especially when much of the night is spent bowfishing! For more information about the bow fishing trips or waterfowl hunting opportunities, contact Cory Vinson with Guaranteed Guide Service 469-867-4299. OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK- Heres a method of seasoning fish fillets I learned years ago that has become a staple at our fish frys. Using a thin blade fillet knife, remove all the red meat from the fillet and cut large fillets into smaller pieces, they will fry quicker and have more crunch than larger pieces. Marinate the fillets in buttermilk and Louisiana hot sauce (use plenty) for an hour or so before you fry them. Dust the fillets with a mixture of 75 % corn meal and 25% flour. Fry until crispy, that added 30 seconds spent in the cooking oil adds greatly to the flavor and texture of fish. Luke Clayton Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc? 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