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Bowfishing in the United States: History, Status, Ecological Impact, and a Need for Management


Abstract and Figures

In this paper we review the history and development of bowfishing, provide a case study of a high-profile bowfishing tournament in Oklahoma, survey and summarize management of the sport in all 50 states, and provide scientifically-based approaches for its management. Bowfishing has a distinct niche in the evolution of the bow and arrow and in fishing, as one of several methods practiced by many and scattered indigenous cultures worldwide. In the past century, advances in technology, including the development of the compound bow, custom boat and lighting systems for night bowfishing, and improved information transfer have opened the sport to many people previously unable to participate in the sport at a satisfying level. Bowfishing poses some distinct challenges for fisheries managers compared to angling, including the impracticality of catch-and-release, noncatch (wounding) mortality, and by-catch mortality of non-targeted native species. In 2019, we conducted a survey of 50 state fish and wildlife agencies that indicated only nine states had bowfishing education programs and none had articulated management goals or plans specific to the sport. Evidence indicates that bowfishing may provide plentiful opportunities for harvesting nuisance invasive species such as Asian carps (Cyprinidae) and the Common Carp Cyprinus carpio, but must be practiced much more judiciously, and in some instances, not at all, depending on locality, for higher valued native species such as buffalofishes (Catostomidae: Ictiobus spp.), Paddlefish Polyodon spathula, gars (Lepisosteidae), and rays (Batoidea). Whereas in the terrestrial and avian species that bowhunters most commonly target, males reach a larger size than females, in fish species targeted by bowfishers, the opposite is the case. The result is selective depletion of large, older, mature females and evolutionarily disruptive truncation of life histories. We suggest ten of many potential topics for consideration in agency management planning for bowfisheries. We seek to provide agencies information for developing historical, ecological, and socioeconomic perspectives for managing bowfisheries, as other fisheries, as instruments of species conservation, public benefit, and sound long-term public policy.
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Bowshing in the United States: History, status, ecological impact,
and a need for management
Dennis L. scarnecchia1 anD Jason D. schooLey2
1. Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
2. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Jenks, Oklahoma
In this paper we review the history and development of bowshing, provide a case
study of a high-prole bowshing tournament in Oklahoma, survey and summarize
management of the sport in all 50 states, and provide scientically-based approaches for
its management. Bowshing has a distinct niche in the evolution of the bow and arrow and
in shing, as one of several methods practiced by many and scattered indigenous cultures
worldwide. In the past century, advances in technology, including the development of the
compound bow, custom boat and lighting systems for night bowshing, and improved
information transfer have opened the sport to many people previously unable to participate
in the sport at a satisfying level. Bowshing poses some distinct challenges for sheries
managers compared to angling, including the impracticality of catch-and-release, non-
catch (wounding) mortality, and by-catch mortality of non-targeted native species. In
2019, we conducted a survey of 50 state sh and wildlife agencies that indicated only nine
states had bowshing education programs and none had articulated management goals
or plans specic to the sport. Evidence indicates that bowshing may provide plentiful
opportunities for harvesting nuisance invasive species such as Asian carps (Cyprinidae)
and the Common Carp Cyprinus carpio, but must be practiced much more judiciously,
and in some instances, not at all, depending on locality, for higher valued native species
such as buffaloshes (Catostomidae: Ictiobus spp.), Paddlesh Polyodon spathula, gars
(Lepisosteidae), and rays (Batoidea). Whereas in the terrestrial and avian species that
bowhunters most commonly target, males reach a larger size than females, in sh species
targeted by bowshers, the opposite is the case. The result is selective depletion of
large, older, mature females and evolutionarily disruptive truncation of life histories. We
suggest ten of many potential topics for consideration in agency management planning
for bowsheries. We seek to provide agencies information for developing historical,
ecological, and socioeconomic perspectives for managing bowsheries, as other sheries,
as instruments of species conservation, public benet, and sound long-term public policy.
Keywords: sheries management, gars, Asian Carp, buffaloshes, Paddlesh, archery,
bow and arrow
TransacTions of The Kansas
acaDemy of science
Vol. 123, no. 3-4
p. 285-338 (2020)
Whether you are a beginning, intermediate,
or even advanced archer, archery will give
you something that’s almost impossible to
nd elsewhere. USA Archery
“[Archery] a sport which is as harmless
and fascinating as it is old and
honorable” – Maurice Thompson (1878,
p. 1) The Witchery of Archery.
Every aspect of human technology has a
dark side, including the bow and arrow. –
Margaret Atwood
What are we looking for? Basically, any
trash sh that will swim, but the main
target today is gonna be some gars… –
Relentless Anglin’ (2017)
286 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Bowshing, the taking of sh with a bow and
arrow, or a crossbow, is a specialized sport
gaining interest and participation in both fresh
and marine waters. It is one of the fastest
growing segments of archery sports in the
United States (Woody 2019). As one acionado
described it, “for as little as $20.00 you can
get a drum reel and an arrow. You can shoot
from shore or a boat. Day or night. Alone or
with some friends. You can target Common
Carp to alligators and stingrays.” (Appleberg
2006). With the expanded interest in bowshing
has come major expansion in the technology
of bowshing gears (Fig. 1), a proliferation
of bowshing tournaments with large cash
prizes, and professional associations dedicated
to the sport. The tournaments, by “combining
the challenge of bow shing with the spirit of
competition, … can be as fun or as serious as
you want to make it... Tournaments can range
from a couple of hours to days. The longer
tournaments are often described as ‘Ironman’
Figure 1. Bowshing from a custom-designed boat equipped with ood lights, trolling motor, and
raised platform for night bowshing. Note the fourth bow on deck and the large stock tank in the
image foreground used as a receptacle for shot sh that are landed. Image courtesy of Zach Kjos,
North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 287
tourneys. Indeed, you have to be tough as nails
to shoot for 24 hours straight. It’s the archery
version of an extreme sport.” (Appleberg 2006).
Several factors have inuenced the growth
of bowshing. Ecological changes have
also contributed to the increasing national
and regional interest and participation in
bowshing. Dam construction throughout the
United States has concentrated pre-spawning
sh in areas such as clear tailwaters especially
amenable to bowshing (Mestl et al. 2019).
More shallow, lentic habitat in bays has also
resulted from dam construction and reservoir
impoundment, where sh can be more easily
seen and shot with a bow and arrow. Species
such as gars (Lepisosteidae), which inhabit
shallow spawning areas in spring and summer
(Allen et al. 2020), where they often bask
(Potter 1927) and gulp air during oxygen-
depleted times (McCormack 1967), can be
especially vulnerable to bowshing. Another
factor has been the increase throughout
much of the United States of nonnative sh,
including the Common Carp Cyprinus carpio,
Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella and other
invasive Asian carps (Cyprinidae: Bighead
Carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, Silver Carp
H. molitrix, Black Carp Mylopharyngodon
piceus; Hinterthuer (2012)).
Improved archery technology since the 1970s,
including the invention of the compound bow
(Allen 1969; Robb 2018), has opened the sport
to archery achievements by many men, women,
and children unable to handle longbows and
recurve bows to their satisfaction. Custom boats
with raised decks and elaborate lighting systems
for night use are now designed and equipped
specically for bowshing (Fig. 1). Increased
access to bowshing information from diverse
media outlets has provided bowshers an
opportunity to become informed faster than has
ever been possible. Technological advances
such as cell phones and GPS devices have
increased the efciency and responsiveness of
shers (e.g., Cachon et al. 2015).
Bowshing also affords greater opportunity
to shoot, kill, and maim, often without
making use of the sh, than is typical in
most bowhunting. Liberal or no bag limits
for bowshing nuisance species such as the
invasive carps allow much more opportunity
for take than does bowhunting large terrestrial
game species such as deer or elk. Bowshing
is seen by some as providing a service to
anglers. With the increase in recreational and
tournament angler (i.e., hook and line) interest
in specic game species such as the basses
(e.g., Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides)
has come a desire to reduce other native
species not viewed favorably by most anglers
but found to be removable with bowshing.
Such species include gars, Bown Amia calva,
suckers and buffaloshes (Catostomidae), and,
in marine habitats, rays (Batoidea).
Other factors contributing to the increased
participation in bowshing may be rooted
in human psychology, mental control,
and spiritual training (Haywood 2006). A
sampling of social media (text and video)
quickly displays the passion with which many
bowshers pursue their hobby. Archery has
been recognized as a skill sport in which both
hits and near misses fuel the illusion of control,
potentially leading to the compulsive desire
to continue participating (Clark 2014). The
potentially compulsive aspects of the sport
have been described, often with an almost
religious fervor, by adherents. The German
philosophy professor, Eugen Herrigel, studied
Japanese archery (kyūdō) in his exploration
of Zen (Herrigel 1953). Archery is seen as a
source of mental discipline and control (Shōji
2001). As Zen scholar D. T. Suzuki introduced
Herrigel’s (1953) book: “In the case of archery,
the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing
objects, but are one reality” (p. viii). The
practice, control and focus required in archery
has also been recognized and applied as
therapeutic for various life stressors, including
post-traumatic stress disorder (Bryan et al.
2018; The Ranch Tennessee 2020).
288 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Bowshing is practiced on a variety of
species of widely different perceived value to
society: invasive species such as the nonnative
Common Carp and Asian carps (Bajer et al.
2016; Phelps et al. 2017), native, historically
underutilized but now often declining species
such as buffaloshes (Ictiobus spp.; Solomon
et al. 2016), native predators such as gars of
substantial ecological value (Scarnecchia 1992;
Bennett et al. 2015) but disfavored by many
sport anglers, and species with a complex
identity such as the Paddlesh Polyodon
spathula, that are taken by bowshers in
some states but protected in other states
(Quinn 2010; Mestl et al. 2019). Non-piscine
aquatic species taken by bowshers that are
not specically considered here include the
American bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus,
American alligator Alligator mississippiensis,
and several species of turtles.
The sport of bowshing poses some distinct
challenges for sheries managers compared
to other types of shing. For example, catch-
and-release for more valued species is not
a viable option (e.g., Paddlesh snagging:
Scarnecchia and Stewart 1997). In that sense,
the sport is more accurately described as
aquatic bowhunting. Non-take mortality from
wounding needs to be considered more so than
in most other types of recreational shing.
This problem is worsened because preferential,
selective removal of females is more likely
in bowshing than in typical bowhunting for
terrestrial species such as deer or elk. Unlike
terrestrial species, where the mating systems
often favor larger males than females, the
vast majority of North American freshwater
sh species, including essentially all of the
common species bowshed, have mating
systems favoring larger females (and their
higher fecundity) than males, with females
maturing later in life (Bell 1980; Scarnecchia
et al. 2007; Koch et al. 2009; Daugherty et
al. 2019; Lackmann et al. 2019). Because
larger sh may be easier to see and hit, the
tendency to kill or maim the large females
may be greater than in hook and line shing
(i.e., angling). Many of the species are also
longer-lived than most terrestrial quarry (Bell
1980; Scarnecchia et al. 2014; Daugherty
et al. 2019, 2020; Lackmann et al. 2019).
A size and age bias and resulting truncated
age structure can create unnatural selection
pressures and evolutionary responses in a sh
stock (Kuparinen and Merilä 2007) that some
managers try to avoid (Francis et al. 2007;
Scarnecchia et al. 2014). Another issue is that
in areas where several species intermingle, by-
catch and mis-identication mortality of native
species of concern can be a major problem.
Other shery management concerns about
bowshing are similar, but no less important,
than for angling. Yet compared to terrestrial
bowhunting, where management has become
more conscientious and oriented toward
sustainability, most bowshing is pursued in an
environment of high or no bag limits and few
or non-existent special licensing or permitting
requirements. On the positive side, however,
bowshing has been used by sheries biologists
in a few instances as a sh sampling method in
situations where survival of the sampled sh
has not been considered an issue (e.g., Tyler and
Granger 1984; Morrow et al. 1997).
More information is needed about the
relationships among bowshers, anglers, and the
public. Longmire (2012) polled South Dakota
anglers for potential conicts with bowshers
and found that 91% of the respondents
perceived no bowshing conicts with hook and
line shing. As the sport expands, the potential
for conicts may arise, both in overlapping
shing space and in situations where anglers and
bowshers might be pursuing or incidentally
killing the same desirable species. Other
conicts are arising as night bowshing
becomes more popular. Bright lights from
bowshing boats across open expanses of water
at night can directly or reectively penetrate
windows or porches of lake and river-side
dwellings, leading to disruptions and conicts
with residents (Farkas 2020).
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 289
The challenge for managers, and the focus of
this paper, is how to effectively and sustainably
manage this sport for the long-term benet
of the sh communities, species and society,
consistent with diverse management goals for
native and nonnative species. Although our
review of websites indicates that the sport of
bowshing is clearly in an expansion phase,
the dearth of scientic studies on bowshing
(an exception being Quinn (2010)) suggests
that conceptualization of how these sheries
should be managed and monitored has
lagged well behind the sheries themselves
in many localities. Some sheries managers
undoubtedly have knowledge and experience
with bowshing and bowsheries, whereas
others have little or no knowledge of the sport.
Background knowledge of the sport should
prove useful for many sheries managers.
We designed this paper to be a thorough and
up-to-date review of the history, development,
status, and current and future management
needs of bowshing in the United States.
We provide a case study of a high-prole
bowshing tournament in Oklahoma,
survey and summarize state management
of bowshing in the 50 states, and provide
information for a framework for understanding
and proactively managing the sport. We aim to
provide agency managers and others involved
with the sport a solid grounding for guiding
their management actions and their interactions
with bowshers in the eld and at tournaments.
We seek to aid agencies in developing
historical, ecological and socioeconomic
perspectives for managing bowsheries, as
other sheries, as instruments of species
conservation, public benet, and sound long-
term public policy.
This paper consists of seven sections: 1) this
introduction; 2) origins and early history; 3)
modern technological advances in bowshing;
4) sport governance and tournaments; 5) a
case study of the 2018 U. S. Open bowshing
tournament; 6) national status and regulation in
the 50 states; and 7) science-based approaches
for management. Fishery managers and
administrators largely unfamiliar with archery
and bowshing may benet from all sections.
Managers of Native American sheries may
nd Sections 2 and 7 of particular interest.
Those interested in technological aspects
of archery and bowshing will benet from
Section 3. Fisheries administrators may benet
most from Sections 4-6. Agency managers
already knowledgeable of bowshing and
tournaments (i.e., Sections 1-6) can focus on
Section 7, where results of ecological and life
history research studies are synthesized into
specic recommendations for management of
bowsheries, and where ten topics for future
management planning are provided.
origins anD earLy hisTory of Bowfishing
“The Choctaws and Chickasaws
seldom if ever sh with a rod and line.
They prefer the bow and arrow, with
which weapon, when the water is low
and clear, they frequently procure the
largest sh. At certain times the Indians
get together for a grand “fry”. By
means of a weed called “Devil’s Shoe
String”, which they chop or beat up and
throw into the water, they stupify and
intoxicate the sh in such a manner as
to be able to secure all that they require
for present use. The weed, however, is
not deadly poison, its effects being but
temporary” (O’Beirne 1891, p. 211)
The bow and arrow have a long history, both
as weaponry in intergroup warfare in Asia,
Europe, and North America (Maschner and
Mason 2013) and in hunting and shing for
food (Laubin and Laubin 1980; Tomka 2013).
Their use sometimes occurred in conjunction
with poisoned arrowheads (Bradley 1956; Jones
2007; Robbins et al. 2012; Langley et al. 2020).
The exact origin of the bow and arrow remains
uncertain and is an area of active research.
Recent studies provide fragmentary and
inferential evidence of its origins in southern
290 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Africa 60,000-64,000 yr BP (Sibudu Cave,
South Africa: Lombard and Phillipson 2010;
Backwell et al. 2018). Evidence for bow and
arrow use is also suggested from the Kalahari
(Botswana), 35,000-45,000 yr BP (Robbins
et al. 2012). Earliest indications suggesting
bow and arrow use outside of Africa are from
the Fa-Hien Lina Site in Sri Lanka, 48,000
yr BP (Langley et al. 2020). Pictures on the
walls of caves in what are now France, Spain,
and Egypt attest to the use of bows in the
Upper Paleolithic period (ca. 40,000 yr BP;
Znamieroska-Prüffer 1966). Shōji (2001)
reported that archaeological sites in Japan
showed evidence of the bow and arrow from
about 7,000 yr BP. In North America, the bow
and arrows are thought to have originated from
Asia (Laubin and Laubin 1980). Some experts
see that movement primarily through a more
recent, broad diffusion (Blitz 1988) whereas
others have favored an older, somewhat
less-diffusive pattern and more independent
inventions of the technology. (e.g. Arkansas;
Nassaney and Pyle 1999). Maschner and
Mason (2013) reported on the presence of at
least four waves of introduction of the bow and
arrow into the region now known as Alaska,
the rst as early as 12,000 yr BP. It evidently
disappeared from use by 3,500 yr BP, but by
1,200 yr BP it was being used in the Alaskan
interior. No matter how many times the bow
and arrow were invented independently or
reintroduced, the technology diffused widely
from the Arctic region, east and south (Taylor
2001; Tomka 2013). By the time of European
explorers’ encounters with native tribes, the
bow and arrow were in use throughout North,
Central, and South America (Rogers 1940;
Laubin and Laubin 1980).
The crossbow, a bow and arrow with the
addition of a stock and a string-catch, took a
different path to North America. Wilbur (1937)
provides a succinct review of its origins. It was
rst described in China twenty-four centuries
ago (Payne-Gallwey, 1903). It was used as
weaponry by the Chinese, later by the Romans
in the fth century, and developed greatly in
design and application in Europe during the
Middle Ages. It was introduced into England
during the Norman conquest and later used
effectively by Spaniards in conquests of the
New World (Arnold et al. 1995). It appears to
have come to North American from the east,
from Europe and also from western equatorial
Africa (Powell-Cotton 1929), where it had
been introduced by Europeans, later adopted by
native tribes, and brought to the Americas via
enslaved populations (Ball 1996). Its subsequent
use by the Rappahannock Tribe (Virginia:
Hassrick and Carpenter 1944) and Catawba
Tribe (South Carolina: Speck 1946) are thought
to have African origins. Modern improvements
are described at (2020).
Bowshing has a distinct, if narrow, niche
in the evolution of the bow and arrow and in
shing. Radcliffe (1921, p.40) postulated that
the rst shing was by hand, and … “Third
comes shing with a line of some sort.” In
between these forms—i.e., the second form-
-was “by spear, and then the spear harpoon,
with barbs on one side, where the barbed head
could come free of the shaft, to where… we
ultimately attain … an arrow shaped like a
trident shot from but attached to a bow.” (ibid.,
p. 40). The bow and arrow as a shing gear
can thus be characterized as having evolved
from earlier thrusting and piercing weapons
and implements such as the spear, javelin, atlatl
(e.g., for throwing darts; Aleuts: Orchard 2001),
and harpoon (Mason 1902; Znamieroska-Prüffer
1966; Taylor 2001). Intermediate development
stages between spear and bow and arrow (e.g.
harpoons, atlatl, and modications), including
detachable points (Ojibwa First Nation: Parry
Island, Canada, Jenness 1935; Makah Tribe:
Hoko River Site, Washington, Croes and
Blinman 1980) are well-described (e.g., North
America: Mason 1902, Laycock 1990). Rau
(1884, p. 152-153) described a unilateral barbed
copper dart head (i.e., barbed on one side) from
Wisconsin: “Those like it … are now used
in Tierra del Fuego. Meeting with unequal
resistance in the water, it will not go straight. So
it seems an absurd pattern, but it is found that if
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 291
aimed at a sh it will hit him, for owing to the
refraction of light, he is not where he looks as if
he were. One barb is then better than two, and
we are the fools after all.”
An advantage of the bow and arrow compared
to other thrusting implements was that the small
size of arrows made it easier to carry more of
them. Other benets of the bow and arrow over
the spear included more rapid velocity and,
with training, better accuracy (Bettinger 2013).
Arrowheads required less int than spear heads
(Weitzel 2018). Bowshing required additional
training and skill, however, in part because of
more extreme refraction of water when shooting
at an angle from a distance.
Materials used for construction of early archery
equipment varied. Bows could be made from
bone (e.g., elk ribs) and horn (bighorn sheep,
bison) and woods that would ex without
breaking, including ash, hickory, locust, Osage
orange, cedar, juniper, oak, walnut, birch,
chokecherry, yew, and others. Hamilton (1982)
and Weitzel (2018) described three kinds of
bows: self bows of a single stave of wood,
backed bows with sinew reinforcement, and
composite bows with wood, horn or antler,
and sinew backing. Tomka (2013) describes
sinew-backed bows and composite bows as
having a greater draw weight (penetrating
force) than self bows. Bowstring could be
made of plaited or twisted plant ber, leather,
or cotton. Arrowheads were of bone, horn, or
int and were often replaced later by metals
such as bronze and iron. Arrows were made
of various woods (Znamieroska-Prüffer 1966;
Laubin and Laubin 1980), including ash, birch,
wild rose and chokecherry in North America
(Weitzel 2018). Wilbur (1937) discusses a
range of historical technological advances in
the crossbow up to that time.
Early evidence of bowshing comes from
archaeological sites, early writings, illustrations,
and direct ethnological observations (e.g., Rau
1884; Rostlund 1952). Waterman (1975) notes
that it is often impossible to tell whether ancient
spears and arrow points were used for hunting,
shing, or both. Rau (1884) and Rostlund
(1952) summarized available reports of
aboriginal bowshing in North America based
on writings mostly of the sixteenth through
nineteenth centuries. Bowshing was often
used as training and preparation for hunting and
warfare. Rau (1884) cited Loskiel (1794) writing
on the Delaware and Iroquois tribes, where
“Little boys are even frequently seen wading
in shallow brooks, shooting small shes with
their bows and arrows” (p. 283). He also cited
Lawson (1714) on indigenous people of North
Carolina, where, “…the youth and Indian [his
italics] boys go in the Night, and one holding a
Lighted Torch, the other has a Bow and Arrow,
and the Fire directing him to see the Fish, he
shoots them with the Arrows, and thus they kill
a great many of the smaller fry and sometimes
pretty large ones.” (p. 290). These and other
reports from North America (e.g., Flatheads,
Montana: Ronan 1890; Eyaks, Alaska: Birket-
Smith and De Laguna 1938; Osages, Missouri:
Tixier 1940; several other tribes: Rostlund 1952)
indicate that the practical value of the bow and
arrow in North America often rst developed
with children and youths as a training tool, for
recreation, or both (Mason 1893).
Rau (1884) and Rostlund (1952) also
summarized observations of tribal bowshing
practiced by adults. As quoted in Rau’s (1884,
p. 288) review, Captain John Smith (1624)
wrote that “they [Indians of Virginia] use long
arrows tied in a line, wherewith they shoot at
sh in the rivers.” In Histoire de la Louisiane,
Du Pratz (1758, also cited in Swanton 1911)
recorded that “They [native peoples] sometimes
make arrows of thin, hard canes, but these
only serve for shooting birds and shes….
Their war arrows are usually armed with a
scale of the bony gar sh (Poisson-armé);
but if their arrows are designed for shooting
carp or cat-sh (“Barbue”), which are large
shes, they attach to the shaft a bone pointed
at both ends in such a manner that one end
forms the point of the arrow, while the other is
a little distant from the shaft, which prevents
292 Scarnecchia and Schooley
the arrow from coming out of the body of the
sh. The arrow, moreover, is connected by a
string with a piece of wood, which oats and
does not allow the sh to go to the bottom or to
escape.” (p. 293). Speck (1930; 1946) described
bowshing for carps and suckers in the early
twentieth century among the Catawba Tribe
of South Carolina. Rostlund (1952) compiled
the scattered historical reports of bowshing
among tribes, including several from the
southeast (e.g., Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek
(Swanton 1946), and Seminole (MacCauley
1887)). After the removal of the southeastern
tribes to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Choctaws
and Chickasaws were described by O’Beirne
(1891) and Creeks described by Debo (1941) as
using bowshing in combination with Devil’s
shoe-string [Fabaceae: goat-rue, Tephrosia
virginiana], a native source of rotenone, as a
sh toxicant (Krumholz 1948) to obtain sh for
subsistence. American artist Seth Eastman’s
painting entitled Indian Shooting Fish depicted
bowshing as practiced by tribes in the Great
Lakes region (Dakota (Santee Sioux) and/or
Ojibwa) and illustrated Henry Schoolcraft’s
authoritative tome on Native American tribes
(Schoolcraft 1852). In Rostlund’s (1952) review
of tribal shing methods, it was noteworthy that
many other tribes he investigated did not seem
to practice bowshing, even over large areas
(Northwest Coast, much of Prairie and Plains),
instead favoring other types of food or other
more effective methods of shing in their areas
such as nets, traps, hooks, and spears. Some
tribes even had taboos against it.
Those North American tribes that did use
bowshing seemed to use it, as they used
bowhunting, for several purposes: as a source
of food (e.g., Smith 2010; Fig. 2), for hunting
and warfare skills (Cummins 2003), and for
recreation. Other, international studies of past
and present indigenous bowshing are not
reviewed here (e.g., Andaman Islands: Ganguly
and Pal 1962, Bednarik and Sreenathan 2012;
New Guinea: Dosedla 1984, Lokoloko 2004,
Quinn 2004, Sibange 2004; Solomon Islands,
eastern Europe (Hungary): Znamieroska-Prüffer
1966; Venezuela: Gragson 1992, Greaves 1997).
In both North America and Europe, as rearms
replaced the bow and arrow as weaponry and
hunting tools in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries (Mason 1893; Laubin and Laubin
1980; Taylor 2001), there was less of a need
for skills in archery. As of 1957, Znamieroska-
Prüffer (1966) noted that “… the bow ...
has changed in Europe from a hunting into
a sporting weapon, is no longer used for
shing, and is only treated as a tradition” (p.
151). It nevertheless maintained its cachet
among the fashionable upper-class men and
women (Koppedrayer 2004). In addition to
its social function, it satised a fascination
with medievalism and a perceived return
Figure 2. Sam Resurrection, Salish Tribe,
bowshing, most likely for Bull Trout Salvelinus
conuentus, on the Clark Fork River, Montana.
ca. 1915. Sam (1857-1942), according to Salish
Lore, was once thought to have died as a youth
but was “resurrected” and monikered with that
English surname. He went on to play an important
role in inuencing treaty rights on and around the
Flathead Reservation (Stromnes 1999). Image
courtesy of University of Montana Library.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 293
to a simpler, pre-industrial time (Johnes
2004). The skill-building and recreational
aspects of aboriginal and European-American
bowshing in North America have retained
their importance in modern, technologically
advanced bowshing and competitive
tournaments in the United States.
Sport bowshing’s recent evolution,
technological advances, and participation in
the United States
In many respects, modern bowshing
development in the United States parallels the
overall evolution of the sport of bowhunting.
In an obscure guidebook (i.e., “Vade Mecum”)
for American archers, Elmer (1917) describes
early twentieth century archery as inuenced
by diverse sources, including indigenous,
European, African, and Asian. Mogren (2013)
traced aspects of the development of modern
bowhunting starting from the nineteenth century
with “romantic bowhunting stories written by
brothers Maurice and Will Thompson in mass
circulation magazines, including Appleton’s
Journal, Harper’s Magazine, and Scribner’s
Monthly, during the 1870s” (p.219). Maurice
Thompson’s book The Witchery of Archery
(1878) became a popular source of exciting
stories and practical information that expanded
interest in the sport. Archery is explored in all
of its mythological, romantic, adventurous, and
practical aspects by Thompson, a Renaissance
Man with expertise in law, natural history, civil
engineering, literature, and poetry (Fig. 3). His
brother Will was a champion archer. These
and other writings increased interest into the
early twentieth century. In 1923, Saxton Pope,
a clinical professor of surgery in California,
wrote Hunting with the Bow and Arrow (1923a),
Figure 3. The Witchery of Archery by Renaissance Man Maurice Thompson fervently depicted
mythological, romantic, adventurous, and practical aspects of archery.
294 Scarnecchia and Schooley
another popular account of archery, in which
he discussed not only numerous adventures in
hunting, but his encounters with Ishi, the Yahi
(Yana) Indian who introduced him and others
to archery as practiced by his vanishing tribe
(Pope 1918; Kroeber 1927; Kroeber 1961;
Edinborough 2005). Pope also wrote A study
of Bows and Arrows (1923b), a quasi-technical
review of different equipment known from
around the globe at that time. From these early
inuential writings and subsequent archery
journals and popular magazines targeting both
men and women bowhunters and bowshers,
information, knowledge and interest proliferated
through the mid- and late- twentieth century
(Amada Archery 1958; Mogren 2013).
Gears and Technologies - In understanding
the evolution of bowshing into a modern
sport, advancements in gear and technology
provide one indicator. One way of identifying
and recognizing technological advances
and commercial development is through
inspection of United States patents. Schumm
(1983) discusses the contributions of Clarence
Hickman, another Renaissance Man and
inventor, with a strong physics background,
who made numerous contributions in physics,
weaponry (Fig. 4), and in technical aspects of
archery equipment. Characterized by Schumm
(1983) as “the father of scientic archery” (p.
1) and the man who transformed archery from
an art to a science, his physical injuries and
ailments (and slight build) may have further
inspired him to improve the efciency and
Figure 4. Clarence Hickman, often called the father of scientic archery, used his background in
physics to develop and patent a recurve bow with a mechanical advantage over the traditional
longbow. Bracing a bow resulted in an additional advantage over an unbraced recurve bow. From
Hickman (1937a).
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 295
practicability of the sport. His research into
a recurve bow, a concept long known and
used but not theretofore technically explained
to that extent, was described fully in terms
of dynamics (i.e., the branch of classical
mechanics concerned with the movement of
objects under forces) in his patent application
and in a related article (Hickman 1937a,b;
Fig. 4). His work led to further development
by physicists in understanding the dynamics
and ballistics of recurve bows (Klopsteg 1943;
Schuster 1969). A lesser-known Hickman
patent concerned the process of applying silk
as backing for the bows, one of numerous
attempts by inventors to improve the resiliency
of the bow and prevent it from “taking a
set”, or becoming permanently bent, under
repeated use (Hickman 1942). Other inventions
to improve resiliency and reduce the length
required of a bow include Pikula’s (1961)
patent to offset the handle of the bow away
from the archer (i.e., with the arms toward
the archer) and sportsman and conservationist
Frederick (Fred) Bear’s patents using
composite and berglass reinforced materials
to improve bow strength and prevent it from
taking a set (Bear 1952, 1954).
Although the foregoing patents described
improvements over Ishi’s mountain juniper
longbow (Pope 1918), for modern bowshing,
the most important technological advance in the
past millennium was probably the invention in
the late 1960s (and later patent in 1969) of the
compound bow by the little-known inventor
Holless Wilbur Allen of Billings, Missouri (Fig.
5). The idea of having wheels on a bow was
not new; nearly a century earlier, for example,
Figure 5. With the development of the compound bow by H. W. Allen, the resulting user-friendly
design opened the sport of archery to a much higher percentage of the entire public. Inset photos
by L. F. Ryckman, Bismarck, North Dakota. Diagrams from Allen (1969).
296 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Howe (1882, p. 1) patented a ratchet and pawl
system at the ends of a bow “by means of which
the tension of the bow cord may be increased
or reduced at the will of the archer without
unstringing the bow or loosening the bow-cord”.
In the 1960s, Allen experimented with sawing off
the ends of a recurve bow and attaching a block
and tackle system. As described in a litigation
document, “the compound bow system covered
by Allen’s patent employs rotatable pulleys or
cams and multiple line lacing of the bowstring
or cable to create compound leverage”. The
important advantage of the compound bow, as
opposed to more conventional bows, is that [it]
casts the arrow at greater speed with increased
striking power while reducing the amount of
force needed to draw the bow. … Within eight
years of obtaining the patent, Allen had licensed
virtually the entire industry” (p. 2) (Allen
Archery 1989). According to Robb (2018, p.
3), “By 1976 all states except Georgia legalized
their use during bowhunting seasons. About this
time the Pope & Young Club [a conservation
and bowhunting organization that keeps records
of trophy animals] began accepting entries
taken with compound bows… It took less than
10 years for the compound bow to become the
dominant force in all of archery”. Although
the compound bow offered many advantages,
including better consistency and accuracy
and assembly line manufacturing, the most
signicant advancement was that its improved
mechanical advantage opened the sport to many
men, women, children, and many physically
challenged individuals not previously capable of
practicing archery at a successful and satisfying
level. The sport was no longer necessarily
dominated by the exceptionally strong or t but
could be practiced and enjoyed by a much larger
fraction of the population.
Technological advances have continued into
this century. Using the Google® Patent Search
function (; access date
July 10, 2019) for the term “bowshing”, we
observed an increase in patents led during the
period 2010-2018 (Fig. 6) with a peak of 15
applications in 2014. These modern advances
span a broad spectrum of technologies and
applications, from laser bow sights to efcient
and rapid retrieval mechanisms to custom
designed watercraft with generators, abundant
lighting, and hulls designed for more effective
bowshing in shallow water. As is typical
in such developments in shing gear, these
advances in technology were generally aimed at
increasing the accuracy, efciency, and thereby
the enjoyment and satisfaction of bowshers.
In particular, improvements in lighting systems
have led to and coincided with increases in
night shing, including its recent legalization in
some locations (e.g. 2010 in Minnesota). With
improved lighting technology, night bowshing
favors bowshers in several ways over day
bowshing: 1) there is less water disturbance
at night because of less activity of the general
public; 2) there is reduced glare from the sun
and clouds, resulting in greater prey visibility; 3)
there is typically less wind at night, so that the
calmer waters increase prey visibility at a given
depth; 4) some sh species are more vulnerable
at night because they may be less active, may
move into shallower water, and are often less
skittish; 5) bowshers can “shine” sh with their
lights against the dark backdrop of night and
in many cases sh will sit motionless as they
appear to be stunned, and 6) enforcement of
regulations is typically more of a challenge for
agencies at night. Although much more study is
needed in all of these areas, the limited available
evidence reviewed in Cooke et al. (2017)
supports these conclusions.
Some of the recent technologies are expensive,
but success for the entry-level bowsher does not
require a substantial investment. Off-the-shelf
bowshing bows (with reel and arrows) can be
purchased online or at sporting goods retailers
nationwide for less than $300. Retro-t kits for any
bow are available for less than $150. McDougal
(2017) interviewed three retailers of bowshing
equipment regarding the popularity of bowshing
and the equipment required for the sport. All three
retailers conveyed that the retail market remained
small but was growing. While entry-level
bowshers can get by with a terrestrial hunting
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 297
bow retrotted for shing, more dedicated, longer-
term adherents will typically upgrade to purpose-
built bowshing equipment. The retailers noted
efciency (i.e.,“snap-shooting” in bowshing
versus a high-letoff compound bow for hunting),
convenience (i.e. maintaining separate, dedicated
archery equipment for hunting and shing), and
safety (i.e., failure or breakage of high-powered
bowhunting equipment when used for bowshing)
as the three primary reasons for bowshers buying
purpose-built bowshing equipment.
Participation – No thorough analyses of
bowshing growth and participation have been
performed to date. The most representative data
may come from the Archery Trade Association
(ATA), which has examined growth in archery
participation in general, including target archery,
bowhunting, and bowshing, over the period
2012-2015 (ATA 2016). Overall, participation
in archery had increased by 24% from 2012
to 2015, with increases in all regions of the
United States (Northeast, Midwest, South, and
West). The region with highest 2015 increase
in participation overall was the Midwest, with
12% of respondents participating in archery.
However, the 2012-2015 total growth of archery
participation in the Midwest (9%) was slower
than that of the South (36%), West (31%), and
Northeast (14%), suggesting that the other
regions were catching up in archery interest
and participation. The report also examined
demographics and regional trends in bowhunting
specically in more detail. While participation
in bowhunting was observed to be relatively
consistent in the Northeast, Midwest, and West
between 2012 and 2015, a 129% increase in
participation was observed for the South. Further,
42% of survey respondents who participated in
bowhunting lived in the South. Despite these
statistics, the report notes that respondents from
the Midwest and South were similar in respect
to bowhunting participation while the Northeast
and West regions were similar.
Figure 6. United States bowshing patent applications (n=67) led for the period 1980-2018.
Results are from a search for “bowshing” on (Accessed July 10, 2019).
298 Scarnecchia and Schooley
The report also provided demographic
information and described a “Prole of a
Bowhunter” (ATA 2016; Fig. 7). A large
majority of bowhunters were male (84%)
with education less than a bachelor’s degree
(68%) and living in a small town or rural area
(61%). Age of bowhunters varied widely (18-
54) with many adherents in each age group,
although the 35-44 age group had the greatest
representation (22%). Other researchers,
however, have noted marked increases in youth
Figure 7. Prole of a bowhunter, reproduced from ATA (2016). Values represent percent of survey
respondents who bowhunted during 2011-2016
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 299
archery participation, such as a doubling of
participation rates for young women over the
period 2012-2016 (Heldman 2016; Fig. 8).
Media access – Increased media access has
played an important role in creating a new
generation of archers. Though bowshing has
yet to achieve pop culture prominence in the
United States, some television programs and
many YouTube channels are devoted to the
sport. Ironman Bowshing aired 11 episodes in
2013 but was not renewed and archived episodes
are not readily available on any streaming
service. Bowshing TV was launched in 2018
and aired episodes in 2019 on various cable and
satellite television providers. Heldman’s (2016)
general archery respondents across all ages and
both sexes indicated that popular archers from
movies such as Robin Hood (23%) and Katniss
Everdeen (The Hunger Games franchise, 15%)
inuenced their decision to take up archery;
the latter possibly inuencing the growth in
participation among young women.
Other media besides network television are
increasingly important in the proliferation of
the sport. Several equipment manufacturers
produce videos on bowshing for YouTube
featuring their products. The top ten bowshing
videos on YouTube are not afliated with
specic manufacturers, however, and each
one boasts between 5.8 and 46 million views.
Diverse media outlets have undoubtedly
increased the access to immediate and detailed
bowshing information of all types far beyond
what was possible a few decades ago. Both
long-term and new adherents to bowshing
have increasingly more immediate, up-to-date
information on gears, techniques, and specic
bowshing locations, all designed to increase
their enjoyment and their success. Sustainable
management of bowshing, like nearly all
other sheries, must occur in an environment
of continually increasing efciency by
bowshers (Sanders and Morgan 1976).
sporT governance anD Bowfishing
Bowhunting has a long history of governance
in the United States. The earliest record of
organized archers was The United Bowman
Figure 8. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) consists of team and individual
competition from elementary through high school. The program includes a curriculum on
bowshing. Images courtesy of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
300 Scarnecchia and Schooley
of Philadelphia, an exclusive club founded in
1828 by Titian Ramsey Peale. As recounted by
Elmer (1917), Peale, an assistant naturalist in
the western expeditions of Major Stephen Long,
learned archery from the native tribes and drew
on experiences with English archery clubs in
forming his club. The Bowmen disbanded in
1858, and “archery … remain[ed] in desuetude
for twenty years” (p. 10, Elmer 1917). In
1879, the National Archery Association was
established, with Maurice Thompson serving
as its rst president. Known today as USA
Archery and headquartered in Colorado Springs,
Colorado, it serves “to foster and promote the
sport of archery [and to] provide the necessary
resources to foster strong athlete participation,
competition and training in the sport of archery”
[]. The National Field
Archery Association (NFAA), founded in 1939,
is “a non-prot corporation dedicated to the
sport of archery and is the largest eld archery
organization in the world” [www.nfaausa.
com]. NFAA now consists of 49 chartered state
associations and nearly 1,000 afliated clubs. It
promotes numerous competitions for archers of
all ages and interests.
Beyond the umbrella supervision and
coordination of such organizations for the sport
of archery, specic governance of the expanding
sport of bowshing is, perhaps understandably, in
a state of development. The sport of bowshing
in the United States is unofcially coordinated
by the Bowshing Association of America
(BAA), which incorporated in 1989 to “manage
bowshing tournaments in the United States” as
an ofcial sanctioning body and record keeper
[www.bow]. The Archery
trade Association (ATA), although established
in 1953, only recently developed and launched
its “Explore Bowhunting” curriculum in 2011 to
supplement the National Archery in the Schools
Program. Even more recently, in 2016, ATA
launched the “Explore Bowshing” companion
program “as a response to state agencies”
requesting a curriculum for bowshing, which
was “growing in popularity across the country”
(ATA 2019; Fig. 8).
A few bowshing tournaments boast decades-
long histories. For example, the Great Lakes
Bowshing Championship (GLBC) has been held
annually in Saginaw Bay, Michigan since 1984
(Table 1). The GLBC began humbly, with 20
tournament participants, but increased six-fold in
three years and hosted a record-high 266 teams in
Table 1. Summary of Great Lakes Bowshing
Championship tournament take data from http://
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 301
2019. This two-day tournament saw the winning
team take 442 kg of sh in 2019 for a portion
of the $9,000 in prizes. High-prole tournament
popularity growth appears to be mostly a recent
phenomenon, however, as the most prominent
bowshing tournaments (relative to their total
prize money) were established within the last
decade (Table 2). Popularity extends to lower-
prole and regional tournaments, as the BAA
sanctioned 64 tournaments in 2018, with most
occurring in summer months (Fig. 9).
Species composition of bowshing tournament
take varies widely based on tournament format,
timing, location, local regulations, and other
factors. For example, in the 2016 U.S. Open
in Memphis, Tennessee, take was restricted to
nonnative carps (Bighead, Common, Grass, and
Silver) as an awareness promotion for the Great
American River Cleanup (Ammoland 2016).
When no such taxonomic restrictions were in
place, Suchan (2014) reported that Common Carp
comprised 85% of the U.S. Open take in 2014
in southwest Missouri. In contrast, however, the
2018 U.S. Open tournament take in northeast
Oklahoma was dominated by native buffaloshes
(55%) and gars (25%) while nonnative carps
comprised only 17% of the take (Table 3). Timing
of tournaments to coincide with shallow water
spawning activities for many of the preferred
species (e.g. gars, carps, and suckers) typically
results in many tournaments being scheduled
Table 2. Summary of high-prole bowshing tournaments.
Table 3. Bowshing take by species for 2018 U.S. Open Tournament participants. Group %
indicates the summed species % within group. Culled sh are not included here.
302 Scarnecchia and Schooley
during the period April-June, with regional
variances due to water temperature and climate.
case sTuDy: Bass pro® u.s. open
Bowfishing championship
Often regarded by insiders as the “Super Bowl
of Bowshing,” the U.S. Open Bowshing
Championship is a high-prole event in
recreational bowshing. Begun in 2013 in
southwest Missouri, the tournament has
achieved prominence through large corporate
sponsorships, large purses, and a regional
drawing for competitors (Table 4). On June
2-3, 2018, Bass Pro Shops® Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma, hosted the 6th annual U.S. Open
Bowshing Championship (U.S. Open; Fig.
10). The tournament was open statewide on
legal bowshing waters and species, however,
Paddlesh and Alligator Gar Atractosteus
spatula were not allowed at the weigh-in
(each has a daily bag limit of one and both are
subject to special regulations in Oklahoma).
The tournament began at 6pm on June 2 and
was open to 250 watercraft with teams of 2
to 4 bowshers. Weigh-in occurred at 8am on
June 3, allowing a maximum of 14h for travel
and bowshing. Because the tournament was
scheduled on the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) statewide
“Free Fishing Weekend,” team members were
not required to possess state shing licenses.
Sampling the sh and shery - ODWC
partnered with tournament sponsors to collect
information on take, pressure, demographics,
motivations, and other important characteristics
from bowshers to inform future state
management. ODWC’s involvement was three-
fold: providing an information and education
booth, participating in the sh counts and
weights, and facilitating a bowsher survey.
Figure 9. Monthly summary of bowshing tournaments (n=64) sanctioned by the Bowshing
Association of America (BAA) in 2018.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 303
ODWC staffed a table for the entire tournament
weekend, interacting with tournament teams,
families, and the general public with a goal
of educating on sh identication, state
shing regulations, and other information
on Oklahoma waters. Regulation booklets,
Oklahoma Water Atlases, and carp recipe
booklets were provided at no cost. ODWC also
Table 4. Summary of Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open Bowshing Championship weighed sh take
( Number of weighing teams is noted in
parentheses when appropriate. Tournament take in 2016 solely comprised nonnative carps as part
of the “Great River Cleanup.” Data from the 2018 tournament were corroborated by independent
surveys by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Take totals do not include culled sh.
Figure 10. Large crowds of participants and spectators gathered at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops®
U.S. Open Bowshing Championship in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Modied and purpose-built
watercraft were utilized by 170 teams of 2-4 bowshers in pursuit of nongame shes with few
harvest restrictions. Images courtesy of Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World © 2018.
304 Scarnecchia and Schooley
performed a multimedia educational exercise
via a sh identication quiz. Individuals
were presented a photo of a sh and asked to
classify it correctly with ten photos in each
of the following pairings: Carp or Buffalo,
Native or Invasive, Shortnose Gar Lepisosteus
platostomus or Alligator Gar. Although scores
were not recorded, the quiz was used to initiate
conversations on sh identication valuable for
bowshers (Fig. 11).
At the June 3 weigh-in, teams selected their
20 largest sh and placed them in an ofcial
weighing bin while ODWC identied and
enumerated the sh by species. All sh in
excess of 20 were culled before leaving the
water or on site and were not examined or
weighed. Two 23m³ dumpsters were provided
for disposal of all weighed-in and culled sh.
Weigh-in consisted of an aggregate weight
of the 20 largest sh for each team (aka “Big
20” tournament format). Individual weights
and lengths were recorded for contenders for
the “Biggest Fish” and “Longest Gar” prizes,
respectively (Fig. 12).
While teams waited in the queue for the
weigh-in, creel clerks surveyed tournament
team captains with an oral survey recording
answers digitally on a cellular phone via
Google® Forms. Clerks recorded team number,
home zip code, number of male and female
bowshers, total hours shed, and waters
shed. Team captains were also asked to state
or approximate how many sh, in excess of
their 20 weighed-in sh, were culled either
on the water or at the weigh in. Lastly, team
captains were asked to state their preferred
species for bowshing, which were later
aggregated into coarse taxonomic groups (gars,
carps, buffaloshes, and other).
Total take was estimated by summing the
weighed sh with the approximate number of
culled sh reported in the bowsher survey.
Culled sh were not identied by species,
so species weights could not be estimated.
Bowshing take per hour was estimated by
multiplying the reported hours of shing by all
team members for each team to estimate total
hours shed. The number of sh killed (weighed
Figure 11. Examples from interactive sh ID quiz administered to tournament participants and
spectators at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open Bowshing Championship in Broken Arrow,
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 305
plus culled) for each team was then divided
into the total hours shed. Total take by species
was summed from the weighed sh; however,
aggregate weights by species were not recorded.
The frequency of taxa within the weighted take
for each team was compared to stated preferences
for target species from the survey via a Chi-
Square test (signicance level of α = 0.05).
Demographic analyses included approaches
for estimating distance traveled: distance from
home to the tournament based on home zip
code to the weigh-in site in Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma. Second, actual driving distance was
estimated between all shed bodies of water via
Google® Maps, assuming the shortest possible
route between ramps. Total distance traveled
during the tournament, including transit to and
from home, was estimated for each team. All
data compiled on sh counts, sh weights, and
from bowsher surveys were linked by team
number in a relational database.
Each water body reported as shed was
classied as “clean” or “contaminated”
based on the ODWC list of restricted waters
due to the presence of Aquatic Nuisance
Species (ANS; e.g. Zebra Mussels Dreissena
polymorpha, Didymo Didymosphenia
geminata, and others). Potential risk of
contamination of clean waters from ANS
contaminated waters was assessed based on
survey responses from teams bowshing
multiple water bodies. Using the shortest
driving distance method described above
and assuming that all tournament boats were
initially clean, teams that potentially moved
from contaminated waters to clean waters were
identied and the overall fraction of water
body visits by contaminated watercraft among
all reported visits served as an indicator of
contamination risk due to the tournament.
Characterizing the tournament and its
participants - Of the 170 teams registered,
sh counts were obtained from 148 teams,
and bowsher surveys from 147 teams. The
remainder of teams opted out of the weigh-in
events or were not available to survey. The
total number of sh weighed-in was 2,765,
representing 12 species (Table 4). Total weight
of weighed-in sh was 11,061 kg with the
winning and average team weights of 192 kg
and 74 kg, respectively. Most of the killed
sh weighed-in (55%) consisted of native
buffaloshes (51% Smallmouth Ictiobus
bubalus and 4% Bigmouth I. cyprinellus),
25% native gars (22% Longnose L. osseus,
2% Shortnose, and 1% Spotted L. oculatus),
17% nonnative carps (12% Common Carp
and 5% Grass Carp), and the remaining 3.1%
comprising other native, nongame species
(Table 3). Native, nongame species constituted
83% of the killed sh weighed-in. Two Blue
Sucker Cycleptus elongatus (an Oklahoma
species of Special Concern Category II with
Figure 12. Team “Line ‘Em Up” poses with 3 of 20 large Longnose Gar which comprised their winning
take of 192 kg and earned them a victory at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open Bowshing
Championship in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World © 2018.
306 Scarnecchia and Schooley
a daily bag limit of one and mandatory take
reporting) were observed in the weighed-in take,
but the total take of this species is not known.
Seventy-four percent of teams killed 20 or more
sh (including culled sh). In addition to the
reported take at weigh-in, teams reported culling
an estimated 1,919 sh (average 13 sh per
team, maximum 90), which did not contribute
to the species composition prole or weights.
Species composition of culled sh was not
reported. Including the culled sh, the estimated
total take for the tournament was 4,684 sh.
Team captains completed a survey on behalf
of 516 bowshers (500 males, 16 females)
originating from 13 states. Teams traveled
an average of 370 km one-way to participate
in the tournament, with four teams traveling
more than 1,638 km. Participants bowshed a
combined 4,953 hours.
Statewide, 29 water bodies were bowshed,
with 52% of teams shing multiple water
bodies (2-4) and four teams reported logging
>322 km in total estimated distance traveled
from the weigh-in site. Thirteen water bodies
shed (45%) were known ANS waters in
Oklahoma (C. Tackett, ODWC, personal
communication). Further, 13 teams (9%)
bowshed combinations of two or more bodies
of water comprising ANS waters and non-
ANS waters, where contamination potentially
occurred (depending on the order in which they
bowshed these waters).
Half of teams reported a preference for shooting
gars (50%), while 36% and 12% reported
a preference for carps and buffaloshes,
respectively. A signicant difference was found
between the species bowshers wanted to shoot
and what they shot (Chi-Square = 4,913, df =
3, p<0.001, Fig. 13). This discrepancy may be
attributed to differences in species composition
between tournament waters and home waters,
a change in bowshing strategy to increase
tournament performance, or challenges with
species identication, among other possible
explanations. This inconsistency illustrates
a difference between data gathered from an
angler survey (either by mail or online) and
data collected from actual take observed at a
bowshing tournament through a targeted survey.
naTionaL sTaTus anD sTaTe reguLaTion of
To better understand the (2019) status of
bowshing management in the United States,
we administered a survey to all 50 state sh and
wildlife agencies in April-July 2019. Emails
with a link to the online survey were sent
to a list of Fisheries Chiefs provided by the
American Fisheries Society. Responses were
provided by a mixture of Fisheries Chiefs and
agency personnel designated by them as best
qualied to respond. Responses were received
from all states except Maine and New Jersey.
In these two cases, we attempted to acquire
the answers to survey questions through
examination of online resources curated by
their agency (e.g. shing regulations or agency
website). In ve states, (Indiana, Louisiana,
Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon), separate
responses were received from more than
one qualied person. These responses were
examined for similarity and thoroughness,
and we selected the one we deemed to be the
most thorough, informed response. States were
grouped into U.S. Census Bureau regions:
Midwest, Northeast, South, and West (Table 5).
Status - Responses indicated that bowshing
was legal in all 50 states, requiring only a
general shing license in 44 states (Table
5). Only one state (Iowa) reported requiring
a specic bowshing permit or license
to participate in the sport. South Dakota
previously required a spearing/bowshing
permit with a $5 fee to identify constituents
eligible for a survey, but this permit and fee
were discontinued in 2019.
Twenty-eight states reported having restrictions
on where anglers were allowed to bowsh,
and 17 states reported time of day or seasonal
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 307
restrictions. Only 12 states utilized both types
of these restrictions. For example, certain
Minnesota waters managed for trout or posted
as “spawning areas” were closed to bowshing.
Further, certain area restrictions applied during
an “early season” (typically scheduled from
late February to late April) which did not apply
elsewhere or during the remainder of the year
(Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
2020). South Dakota provided a fall bowshing
opportunity in Lake Oahe for Chinook Salmon
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, but other nongame
species were vulnerable to bowshing in all state
waters year-round. When states were grouped
by region, a higher proportion of Midwest states
(42%) used time and area restrictions to regulate
bowshing participation, whereas fewer states
in other regions utilized both (Northeast- 30%,
West- 15%, and South- 13%).
Half of the state respondents (25) reported
the opinion that bowshing was increasing
in popularity in their respective states, while
16 states reported bowshing as having
stable popularity. However, no technical
justication for this opinion was required of
the respondents. Most states (30) reported
having bowshing tournaments in their
states, with half of these states unable to
specify the number of tournaments. Many
states reported efforts or a desire to promote
the sport by means of creating opportunities
through relaxing regulations on certain valued
species (e.g. catshes (Ictaluridae): Texas and
Wisconsin; salmon (Salmonidae): Montana and
South Dakota; Northern Pike Esocidae: Esox
lucius : North Dakota), opening new areas for
bowshing (Oregon and Montana), removing
permitting barriers or fees (South Dakota),
promoting the sport in general (Maryland and
Figure 13. Stated preference for taxonomic guild as reported by Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open
Bowshing Tournament 2018 teams compared to actual composition of their take. Difference
between stated preference and take was signicant (Chi-square = 4,913, df = 3, p<0.001).
308 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Table 5. Results of an online bowshing management survey administered to 50 state sh and
wildlife agencies. States noted with an asterisk (*) did not respond to the survey and answers were
derived solely from online resources. Omitted or missing responses are noted with a dash (-). U.S.
Census Bureau regions are indicated (Northeast [NE], Midwest [MW], South [S], and West [W]).
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 309
Nevada), or utilizing the sport as a means
of invasive species control (e.g. invasive
carps: Mississippi, Michigan, Tennessee, and
Washington; Northern Snakehead Channa
argus: Delaware, Maryland, and Mississippi).
For states reporting increasing popularity,
80% reported having tournaments with
the remainder reporting unknown status
of tournaments (no states with increasing
popularity reported having no tournaments).
States reporting stable popularity were more
balanced between those having tournaments
(50%), not having tournaments (31%), and
unknown tournament status (19%). Because the
dimensions of a bowshing tournament were
not solicited in the survey, the criteria might
be unique for each state. As described above
in the governance section, the Bowshing
Association of America reported sanctioning of
only 64 tournaments in 2018 (Fig. 9); however
the number of unsanctioned tournaments
nationwide was likely far greater, especially
when considering four states reported more
than 20 tournaments per year (Table 6).
Respondents from states with knowledge of the
quantity of bowshing tournaments primarily
reported few (1-10) tournaments annually
(nine states), while two states (Oklahoma and
Virginia) reported >50 and 41-50 tournaments,
respectively. Few states with tournaments (4
of 15) reported having management concerns
about bowshing tournaments; however, a clear
relationship between quantity of tournaments
and management concerns was evident in the
data (Table 6). Only states reporting 21 or more
tournaments noted management concerns with
bowshing tournaments.
Management concerns - All but one state
(Mississippi) reported one or more bowshing
management concerns. States reporting
increasing popularity of bowshing reported
a higher number of management concerns
(average 4.6) than states reporting stable
popularity (average 3.3). However, this
difference was not statistically signicant
(Unpaired T-Test; p=0.059; Fig. 14). The most
common concerns (i.e., greatest number of
states) were inadequate data on bowshers
(71%) and bowshing take (63%, Table 7).
Additional concerns, ranked by frequency,
included wanton waste, user conicts, public
perception or ethics, and inadequate data on
bowshed species. Other concerns were noted
by fewer than 21% of states. States that reported
having bowshing tournaments also reported
signicantly more individual management
concerns (average 4.7) than states reporting no
tournaments (average 1.9, Unpaired T-Test t =
3.89, df = 40, p<0.001). The prevalence of state
concerns related to data inadequacies appears
to square with the self-reported inadequacies
in monitoring, frequency of “Unknowns”
reported in the survey, and the universal lack of
bowshing management goals or plans.
Wanton waste was identied as a common
concern. The term was presumed to be
understood by survey respondents as having
two aspects: one regarding the lack of use of
killed sh and the other as inappropriate or
illegal (in some states) disposal of killed sh
or carcasses as the result of bowshing (Fig.
15). The respondent from Tennessee reported
that carcass discards were a concern, but that
there is no wanton waste law in their state.
This response was pooled with other concerns
of wanton waste, however, despite this legal
caveat. The additional concern of public
Table 6. States with known numbers of bow-
shing tournaments held annually reporting on
management concerns with these tournaments.
310 Scarnecchia and Schooley
perception or ethics may be related, as 12 of the
21 states concerned with public perception or
ethics also noted a concern with wanton waste.
User conicts were a noted concern by 22
states, and the specic nature of this concern
was identied by only a few states. Three
(Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Oregon)
highlighted the tendency of bowshers to kill
trophy Common Carp, which was at odds with
the priorities of hook and line carp anglers, who
have stated a preference for catch and release.
An additional two states (Idaho and New York)
recognized the potential for this conict in
the future, as carp angling was reported to be
increasing in popularity. Pennsylvania noted a
user conict between bowshers and shing
guides leading anglers to trophy Flathead
Catsh Pylodictis olivaris and Channel Catsh
Ictalurus punctatus. This concern contrasted
with that of Wisconsin, which recently allowed
the bowshing of catsh and reported no
notable concerns or user conicts. Indiana and
Pennsylvania noted an increasing frequency of
illegal take (or shoot and release) of game shes,
which would constitute a user conict with
anglers pursuing legal means of take. Minnesota
reported user conicts with lake shore property
owners related to noise of generators used to
power lights on bowshing watercraft.
Fisheries Monitoring - Only three states
(Illinois, Montana, and South Dakota) reported
a bowshing monitoring program, but 11 states
included bowshing in a larger statewide angler
survey while most states (71%) did not monitor
bowshing or bowshers (Table 5). One
exception was Michigan, which had recently
completed a statewide analysis of bowshing
activity (Diana and Goniea 2019).
Figure 14. Comparison of number of management concerns noted by states reporting increasing,
stable, or unknown popularity of bowshing. Error bars represent 95% condence intervals.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 311
Table 7. Summary of management concerns voiced by state sh and wildlife agencies in an
online bowshing management survey. Maine and New Jersey did not respond to the survey and
Mississippi noted no concerns.
312 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Bowshing Education - Only nine states reported
having bowshing education programs (Florida,
Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma,
Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas). Only ve
states noted inadequate bowshing education as
a management concern. However, three of these
(Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon) reported having
bowshing education programs for youth and/
or adults. Fish identication, a likely component
of bowshing education programs, was only
noted as a concern by eight states. Three of
these (Illinois, Indiana, and Oklahoma) reported
having bowshing education programs, possibly
indicating inadequacies in the curriculum,
implementation, or reach of these programs.
Management Planning - No states reported
having articulated bowshing management
goals or plans.
Regional patterns - When grouped by U.S.
Census regions, bowshing management survey
responses revealed several regional patterns
(Table 8). Midwest and South states were
similar in respect to high fractions of states
reporting increasing popularity of bowshing
and the presence of tournaments. In contrast,
Northeast and West states reported lower
popularity and fewer tournaments. Midwest
states reported the greatest average number of
management concerns per state (5.1). Northeast
and West states, where a minority reported
increasing popularity of the sport, had fewer
management concerns compared to other
regions. Midwest and South states generally
agreed that data inadequacies (on bowshers,
take in general, and species killed) were
management concerns. While wanton waste was
an important management concern noted by a
Figure 15. Example of wanton waste after a night of bowshing on a Tennessee River reservoir,
Alabama. These carcasses of native buffaloshes and other Cypriniform species (both native and
nonnative) were discarded next to a boat ramp. Image courtesy of Chris Kim.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 313
high fraction of both Midwest (83%) and South
(73%) states, public perception was reported at
a lower frequency among South states (38%)
compared to Midwest (58%). Fish identication
was not reported as an important management
concern by Western states (0%) though ANS
was reported by several states (15%). Perhaps
the buffaloshes (commonly mistaken for
nonnative carps), whose native ranges are
restricted to watersheds east of the Rocky
Mountains, leaves few native, western species of
similar appearance to nonnative carps. Although
many of the management concerns noted could
be assuaged, in part, through robust bowshing
education programs, few states in each region
(8-15%) noted inadequate bowshing education
programs. Ironically, the two regions noting
the fewest management concerns (Northeast
and West) also reported the greatest (though
low at 13 and 15%, respectively) concern for
inadequate bowshing education.
Other responses - While a standard shing
license is generally adequate to participate
in bowshing in most states (Table 5), we
did not inquire about specic regulatory
questions such as bag limits, size limits,
taxon-specic bowshing rules, or catch and
release limitations for the sport. Relevant
information was nevertheless provided by
some respondents. For example, in Oklahoma,
bowshing is legal for all nongame shes,
including Alligator Gar and Paddlesh.
Both species are pursued via snagging and
bowshing, have a daily limit of one, no
size limit, and mandatory take reporting.
However, mandatory retention is required for
bowshed Alligator Gar and Paddlesh (no
release); further, bowshing is prohibited for
Paddlesh when and where catch and release is
required (ODWC 2019). For all other nongame
shes, catch and release is not prohibited for
snagging and bowshing. Studies on release
mortality are not available. Bowshing for
Paddlesh in Montana is regulated through
a tag system (one sh per person) below
Fort Peck Lake (Montana Fish, Wildlife and
Parks 2019). The Montana respondent noted a
current consideration for regulations to allow
bowshing for Chinook Salmon, a non-native
species in that state, in Fort Peck Lake.
The need for management of bowshing
“In the harvest management of shery
resources in the inland United States,
… decisions are often enacted by state
agencies, acting under the Public Trust
Doctrine. Under this Doctrine…, the
sh resources are held in trust by the
government for the benet of the entire
public; state agency shery biologists act as
trust managers …in administering actions
to meet this commitment to sustainability
for the benet of present and future
generations.” Rider et al. 2019, p. 269.
Table 8. State management agency survey responses (proportions) grouped by U.S. Census
regions. The Northeast region includes ten states; however, responses were not received from two
states (Maine and New Hampshire), therefore all calculations are performed using the responses
from eight states.
314 Scarnecchia and Schooley
“There are no limits on rough sh, so
you can shoot as many as you want and
when you shoot one sh you just kind of
want to keep getting more and more…” –
Matt Schillinger, AMS Bowshing event
coordinator (Skurzewski 2017).
“Bowshing combines the skill of archery
with the thrill of shing. Bowshing
is also great for the environment. By
harvesting hundreds of thousands of
“garbage sh” a year, bowshermen
help bring equilibrium back to the
ecosystem.”- (2020)
“Let your bending in the Archer’s hand
be for gladness, for even as He loves the
arrow that ies, so He loves also the bow
that is stable.”(p. 18) – Kahlil Gibran,
The Prophet; 1923; “On Children”
For the Kahlil Gibran (1923) quote above, one
interpretation is that while the new generation
of Homo sapiens is free like arrows to y and
self-actualize, the older generation, without
owning the new, can provide overarching
direction, wisdom and guidance to assist
them. The steady hands of an individual
pulling back a bowstring can be a prelude to
enjoyable recreation, accomplishment, stress
relief, and a return to a simpler time for the
archer (Johnes 2004). So far from, and yet so
close to, its artisanal origins, modern sport
bowshing’s rapid expansion and technological
advances in gear and media present new
challenges for sheries management agencies.
The agencies must proactively act as stable
bows in managing our common property sh
stocks and sheries for sustainability into
future generations in this changing landscape
of individualism: self-motivation, self-therapy,
self-interest, and self-delusion (Odum 1982).
Pope (1918) described archery in the early 20th
century as “nearly a lost art” (p. 103), largely
forgotten by an emerging modern technological
society. Like Lazarus of Bethany and Sam
Resurrection (Fig. 2), however, the mystical art
of archery has resurfaced to become a major
sport, and as shown here, has again plunged its
arrows into our waters in the modern sport of
bowshing. Even a half-hour perusal of internet
websites depicts the fervor and enthusiasm that
bowshing has generated within the sporting
public. In addition to private reports on media
outlets, well-designed websites offer guided
bowshing trips from well-equipped outtters,
showing satised bowshers posing next to
their large, vanquished quarry. The bowshing
industry, true to entrepreneurial form, has
developed and matured rapidly, both socially
and technologically, in the past two decades.
Increases in interest in bowshing come in an
era when other societal constituencies may seek,
or be compelled to accept, less consumptive
interactions with sh (e.g., Duffus and Dearden
1990; catch-and-release of Paddlesh: Cha and
Melstrom 2018) associated with increasing
human population and limited shery resources.
As of 2020, bowshers are typically treated
identically to anglers (i.e., hook and line)
with respect to licensing. Yet creel surveys
often fail to capture the needs and impacts of
the bowshing constituency as bowshing is
primarily and increasingly a nocturnal pursuit
(e.g., Alligator Gar bowshing, Bennett and
Bonds 2012). Additional focus on bowshers
is afforded by the growth in popularity
of bowshing tournaments, where many
bowshers can be simultaneously observed in
the same area. Bowshers, like other shers,
are often regarded as secretive in respect to
their shing locations and habits, making this
constituency particularly difcult to understand
or monitor without targeted surveys, potential
buy-in from tournament promoters, or
cooperation from sanctioning bodies.
There is reason to ask whether the intended and
potential impacts of bowshing on sh stocks
have been adequately articulated, considered,
or documented by management agencies. Our
2019 survey of state sh and wildlife agencies,
those primarily responsible for bowshing
management in most localities, indicated that
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 315
no states had articulated specic management
plans, including philosophical views on the
sport, or goals and objectives for its orderly and
sustainable development. Fewer than one in
ve states had specic education programs for
a sport well-recognized as strongly compelling
and potentially addictive to its enthusiastic
participants (Clark 2014; also see Grifths and
Auer 2019 for the role of tournaments).
Our review suggests that some bowsheries,
if properly managed to avoid non-target
mortality, can serve both bowshers and
the public interest. Management goals of
native species conservation and nonnative
species control can be assisted by bowshing;
Fig. 16). Non-native species such as carps,
tilapias (Cichlidae) and American Shad
(Alosa sapidisima) oer opportunities. Such
sheries must be managed, however, to avoid
developing a formalized constituency (e.g. an
“Asian Carp Bowshers Association”) that
could develop a vested interest in perpetuating
and spreading the same invasive species
that public trust managers may be trying to
suppress or eliminate. This issue must be
clearly understood by bowshers. In sharp
contrast, Montana’s trophy-oriented Paddlesh
bowshery in the Dredge Cuts below Fort
Peck Dam serves an entirely different goal of
providing some unusual (i.e., diverse) sport
shing opportunity for a native trophy sh
(Scarnecchia et al. 2008; Fig. 17). Distinct
sheries for disparate species (e.g., invasive
nuisance species versus valued native species)
obviously require greatly different management
regulations. Particularly challenging may be
management of species such as gars and Bown,
ancient native species (Wiley 1976; Robinson
and Buchanan 1988; Miller and Robison 2004)
which have been shown to have an important,
underappreciated ecological function in
Figure 16. Asian carps, invasive planktivores, are strong candidates for providing abundant
bowshing opportunities with high or no bag limits. These nonnative species and other introduced
carps are best able to meet the demand for live targets of bowshers. The tendency to jump by
Bighead Carp and Silver Carp adds another skill-testing dimension to bowshing. Image courtesy
of University of Illinois, Urbana.
316 Scarnecchia and Schooley
generally aiding, rather than damaging, sport
angling (Scarnecchia 1992; Johnson 2015;
David et al. 2018). Our tournament survey
indicated that gars have remained a popular
bowshing species, both in recorded take and
stated preference (Table 3, Fig. 13), perhaps in
part because of their sluggish, lurking habits, but
also because many anglers and bowshers still
believe, or want to believe, that gar removal is
benecial to other shes and sheries (Fig. 18).
Fish life histories and bowshing
management - Effective management
regulations for bowsheries for different species
and stocks will need to fully consider important
aspects of sh life history, including the natural
lifespan, observed patterns of recruitment, and
sexual size dimorphism. These topics have
received too little consideration from harvest
managers in the past, especially for native
species not historically valued by anglers or
the public. Numerous studies in recent decades
have concluded that ages of most commonly
bowshed species are greater, often much
greater, than formerly believed. Many studies
have also shown that these same species often
exhibit irregular or episodic recruitment, an
evolutionarily acceptable occurrence for long-
lived, highly fecund species. For example,
Paddlesh is a long-lived species (>60 yr);
especially in northern stocks (Scarnecchia et
al. 2007; 2019a). Northern Paddlesh stocks
recruit much later in life and live about twice
as long as sh from southern stocks, associated
with their different metabolic demands
(Scarnecchia et al. 2007, 2011; 2019a). This
characteristic applies to other long-lived
bowshed species (e.g., Bown: Koch et
al. 2009), potentially necessitating different
stock specic harvest strategies among states
and regions. Paddlesh also typically recruits
poorly and episodically (Scarnecchia et al.
2009; 2014; 2019 a,b). The Alligator Gar,
another trophy species, is long-lived (25-60
years: Daugherty et al. 2020). Maximum age
may be as great as 85-95 years (Mississippi:
149 kg sh, age estimated via otoliths, D. K.
Riecke, Mississippi Department of Wildlife,
Fisheries and Parks, personal communication).
The species also evidently recruits sporadically
(Buckmeier et al. 2013; Smith et al. 2020).
Recent research has documented extreme
old age of Bigmouth Buffalo from northern
stocks (>100 years; Lackmann et al. 2019;
McFeely 2019; Fig. 19) as well as episodic
recruitment. The same characteristics - long
lifespan, episodic recruitment, or both, occur
in other native bowshed species, including
Smallmouth Buffalo (Love et al. 2019), Black
Buffalo Ictiobus niger (Lackmann et al. 2019)
and Blue Sucker (Neosho River, Kansas: Moss
et al. 1983; Milk River, Montana: Bednarski
and Scarnecchia 2006; Red and Kiamichi
rivers, Oklahoma: Dyer 2018), all catostomids
Figure 17. Bowshing for Paddlesh, Yellowstone
Sakakawea stock, at Fort Peck Dredge Cuts,
Montana. Bag limit is one sh per year. A long-
lived species that recruits poorly, Paddlesh
may only be suited to limited, tightly controlled,
closely monitored trophy sheries. Careful stock
assessment and monitoring for sustainability
and maintenance of age and size structure is
necessary (Scarnecchia et al. 2014, 2019a).
Image courtesy of Zach Kjos, North Dakota Game
and Fish Department.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 317
that have recently been found to live to a much
older age that formerly thought, and all of
which biologists have long observed typically
yield few small, young specimens during most
annual sampling (e.g., Blue Sucker, Dyer 2018;
Southeastern Blue Sucker, C. meridionalis:
Pearl and Pascagoula rivers, Mississippi,
Peterson et al. 1999), a result consistent with
unreliable, episodic recruitment (e.g., Bigmouth
Buffalo; Johnson 1963).
Sexual size dimorphism in bowshed species is
of critical concern in formulating management
of bowsheries. Whereas in terrestrial and
avian species bowhunters most commonly
target, such as deer and elk (Cervidae), wild
turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), and even
wild or feral swine (Suidae), males reach a
much larger size than females (Jarman 1983;
Badyaev 2002; Lindenfors et al. 2007; Parés-
Casanova 2013), in sh species targeted by
bowshers, the opposite is the case (Bell
1980). Paddlesh are sexually size dimorphic
in all documented stocks, especially in northern
stocks (Yellowstone-Sakakawea, Fort Peck:
Scarnecchia et al. 2007; 2008) where mature
females are nearly all larger than mature
males. The largest Paddlesh targeted are all,
or nearly all, females (Scarnecchia et al. 2007;
2014, 2019;). The Alligator Gar is also sexually
size-dimorphic, with the largest, heaviest sh
rangewide being females (Alabama: Irwin
et al. 2001; Louisiana: DiBenedetto 2009;
Texas: Binion et al. 2015; Texas, Arkansas, and
Florida: Daugherty et al. 2019, 2020). During
spawning, large female spawners may also
concentrate in shallow, temporarily ooded
areas (Lower Mississippi River: Allen et al.
2020) where their vulnerability to bowshing
may be greatly increased. The tendency for
females to reach a larger size than males
is indicated from data for Bown (Koch et
al. 2009), Longnose Gar (Missouri: Netsch
and Witt 1962, Johnson and Noltie 1997;
Charleston Estuary, South Carolina: Smylie
et al. 2016), Spotted Gar (Lake Pontchartrain
Figure 18. Longnose Gar are a popular target among bowshers due to their perceived abundance,
large size, and low social value as a nongame species with an historically poor reputation (Scar-
necchia 1992). Bowshing tournaments often use trash receptacles to weigh the sh. Although a
popular target, all gars provide substantial ecological benets to waters they inhabit. Their removal
from waters should be judicious and accurately monitored for sustainability and maintenance of age
structure. Images of 2018 Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open Bowshing Championship in Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma, courtesy of Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World © 2018.
318 Scarnecchia and Schooley
estuary, Louisiana: Love 2004; Lake
Thunderbird, Oklahoma: Frenette and Snow
2016), Blue Sucker (Yazoo River, Mississippi:
Hand and Jackson 2003), Freshwater Drum
Aplodinotus grunniens (Alabama: Rypel 2007),
Southern Stingray Dasyatis americana (Tilley
2011), and nearly all other species likely to
be bowshed, although not necessarily to the
extreme extent documented for northern stocks
of Paddlesh (Scarnecchia et al. 2007; 2008;
2011). The pattern of larger females across taxa
has a strong theoretical basis where females
mature later in life than males and reach a
larger size, with accompanying tness benets
(fecundity increases) in situations where
large sh size in males associated with male
dominance in courtship and spawning is not
selected for (Bell 1980).
Another related life history factor in setting
effective sex-specic bowshing regulations
is the lack of highly obvious sex-specic
secondary sexual characteristics in bowshed
species (i.e., something analogous to antlers
in male elk and deer that are bowhunted) that
might have enabled enforceable sex-selective
take in the eld, at a distance, underwater. Some
bowshed species do have visible sex specic
differences. All juvenile and adult male Bown
have a large spot (ocellus) on the upper caudal
peduncle which provides deceptive protection
(Sanderson-Kilchenstein 2015), most likely
from predation; it is much reduced in adult
females, i.e., the largest sh of the species).
Measurable morphometric differences between
sexes are also found (e.g., gars: Love 2002;
McDonald et al. 2013), at least with a high, if
not infallible, degree of reliability. However,
Figure 19. The Lackmann et al. (2019) study of extreme old age of Bigmouth Buffalo (>100 years)
makes intensive bowshing of this native species, as well as related taxa, much less sustainable
than previously thought and much less scientically justiable than bowshing invasive species.
As concluded by Alec Lackmann, sheries scientist from North Dakota State University, (pictured
above, holding an old Bigmouth Buffalo) “They should not be called ‘rough sh,’ which carries
a negative connotation. They should be viewed as an ecological asset … We need to start
recognizing Bigmouth Buffalo and other native sh species as the [ecological] assets they are”
McFeely 2019, p. 1). Any killing of buffaloshes should always be accompanied by accurate
monitoring of the kill and defensible stock assessments. Image courtesy of A. Lackmann, North
Dakota State University.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 319
the differences are only useful for managers if
live sh can be observed, sorted, and released
alive close-up, such as in angling, some types
of commercial harvest, or directed sampling
for monitoring stocks, where sh are kept alive
and in good condition at the time of processing.
These opportunities do not exist for bowshing.
With sexual size dimorphism, managing the sex
ratio of the bowshing kill to avoid excessive
harvest of females becomes highly relevant
in management for sustainability of the native
species. Such selective removal is part of the
larger, globally pervasive problem of selective
depletion of larger, older sh, (megafauna), in
both recreational and commercial sheries from
both freshwater and marine systems (He et al.
2019). Such selective depletion from sheries
has suddenly (on an evolutionary scale)
rendered maladaptive their evolved, protracted
life history strategies characterized by low
natural mortality rates, episodic recruitment,
delayed maturation and long lifespan, especially
for females (Scarnecchia et al. 2019a). The
problem has been identied in sheries (Francis
et al. 2007; Kuparinen and Merilä. 2007;
Kolding et al. 2014) but is being effectively
dealt with in very few situations (e.g.,
Paddlesh: Scarnecchia et al. 2014; 2019a).
The message for managers of these freshwater
bowsheries is that, just as with Paddlesh,
bowsheries for Alligator Gars, other gars,
Bowns, buffaloshes, and other native species
require careful stock assessment and monitoring
for sustainability and maintenance of age, size,
and sex structure (Kuparinen and Merilä 2007;
Scarnecchia et al. 2014, 2019a; Fig. 20). Age
and size truncation, as well as selective harvest
of females, should be avoided, a goal typically
inconsistent with more common regulations
Figure 20. To maintain size, age, and sex structure of a harvested population of a long-lived,
sexually size dimorphic sh species (with larger females than males), the harvest strategy should
seek to mimic the natural, mortality pattern (top “catch” curve of an unexploited stock) with a lower
curve of similar slope (middle curve), avoiding deleterious age and size truncation associated with
selective take of only large, old sh (bottom curve). If length or weight is substituted for age on the
x axis, removing the longest, heaviest sh in sexually size dimorphic sh species such as gars,
buffaloshes, and other bowshed species will also selectively remove females from the stock. M,
F, Z = instantaneous rates of natural, shing, and total mortality, respectively; N = number of sh.
Adapted from Scarnecchia (2014; 2019a).
320 Scarnecchia and Schooley
such as minimum size limits. Instead, harvest
should mimic the natural mortality of the
stock where possible, allowing some old, large
sh, most of which will be females, to persist
(Francis et al. 2007; Kuparinen and Merilä
2007; Paddlesh: Scarnecchia et al. 2014;
2019a). In managing native shes and their
recruitment, selective removal of females from
poorly or marginally recruiting species should
particularly be discouraged.
Managers of bowsheries and other sheries
must also be alert to the probability that
populations of gars, Bown, buffaloshes, and
other species that have been actively exploited
may have already undergone age and size
truncation (Scarnecchia et al. 2019a) before
the time of stock assessment, as the largest,
oldest, more-often female sh had previously
been killed and removed. As evidence of
this problem in gars, for example, Murie et
al. (2009) reported on sex-specic age and
growth of unexploited Florida Gar (Lepisosteus
platyrhincus) in two Everglades canal systems
and found that females reached age-19 and were
much larger than males, which only reached
age-10. The dimorphism in this situation (i.e.
the presence of larger, older females) was
much more extreme than reported in many of
the other populations of exploited gar species
discussed here. Stein and King (2019; g. 3.5)
reported that bowshers exploiting Shortnose
Gars in Illinois killed larger individuals than
were collected with their eld sampling gear; a
bowshing take, which, in the absence of some
unknown sex specic behavioral differences,
would select preferentially for females.
The necessity of managing for age, size, and
sex structure presents numerous challenges for
managing bowsheries. For example, some
Bown and smaller gar species may tolerate
controlled, monitored take, although such
removal may not be desirable in areas where
they are species of concern (e.g., Shortnose Gar
in Montana; T. Haddix, Montana Fish, Wildlife
and Parks, Personal Communication). Targeting
Alligator Gar, a declining species prone to local
extirpation (DiBenedetto 2009), may be much
more difcult to justify after a careful stock
assessment. Bowshing for trophy Alligator
Gar has gained in interest and the need to better
understand and manage the sheries has been
increasingly recognized by some managers
(Fig. 21; Bennett and Bonds 2012; Bennett
et al. 2015; Smith et al. 2020). The same
conscientious harvest management needs exist
for bowsheries for buffaloshes (Lackmann et
al. 2019), Paddlesh (Scarnecchia et al. 2019a),
and other native species. In sharp contrast,
in situations where intentional overshing or
extirpation of nuisance species (e.g., Asian
carps) is sought, any selective removal of
females over males would be benecial.
Bowsheries on invasive species that have
little or no by-catch or other harmful effects to
aquatic systems will allow the managers much
more exibility and latitude.
The same message -- the potential for
overkill by bowshing and the need for
stock assessments -- is not conned to shes
commonly thought of as freshwater species.
Arguments favoring carefully managed kill,
maintenance of size, age and sex structure,
and accurate stock assessments also apply to
bowshing for low fecundity species such
as rays (Camhi et al. 2007; Field et al. 2009;
Ogburn et al. 2018). Like gars and Bown, rays,
both freshwater and marine species, are ancient
(De Carvalho et al. 2004), adaptable survivors
often disliked and even feared by the public
because of their potential to injure (and very
rarely kill) swimmers, divers, and occasionally
shers, especially tourists, from venomous
spines and secondary infections (Grainger
1980; Diaz 2008). In the many cases where rays
(e.g. Cownose Rays Rhinoptera bonasus) may
congregate in shallow, warmer waters, conicts
with an ever-increasing surf-seeking human
population are increasing (e.g. Cole 2019),
leading to calls for depletion that bowshers
have sought to answer. For example, “There has
been concern about the increasing population
size of Cownose Rays due to their predation
of oyster beds. The oyster population has
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 321
been decreasing due to diseases and pollution
reducing their grass bed habitat. It is thought
that Cownose Ray’s high predation of oyster
beds could further complicate the problem of
declining oyster populations. The Virginia Sea
Grant Marine Advisory Program has considered
solving this problem by proposing commercial
shing of Cownose Rays. Commercial shing of
this species has not yet been established because
of many possible problems associated with
it. There is currently no market for Cownose
Rays even though participants in a taste test
liked the Cownose Ray meat.” (University of
Florida Museum 2020). Even though bowshing
for rays has become popular in recent years,
and sometimes seen as a public service by
bowshers, the effects on the ray populations
are poorly known. In our survey, only two
states (Delaware and Maryland) commented
specically on bowshing for rays; only
Maryland noted concerns for the sport. Like the
other species discussed here, rays have, with
a few exceptions, been perceived as nuisances
and therefore have a history of inattentive or
no management (Charvet-Almeida et al. 2002;
Dulvy et al. 2017).
What is known, however, is that fecundity
of these species, in terms of numbers of
offspring, whether viviparous or oviparous
(Wourms 1977; Blackburn 1999) is very low.
As strongly K-selected species (Adams 1980;
King and MacFarlane 2003; Tilley 2011), rays
have few young and make a high reproductive
investment in them, a life history whose
success is predicated on a low total mortality
rate of recruited offspring, including from
shing. Cownose Rays, which have become a
Figure 21. Apex predators such as this 102 kg Alligator Gar that exist in very low numbers relative
to Asian carps and often recruit poorly are not promising candidates for sustainable bowshing,
despite their popularity as trophy sh. Any bowshing take of this species must be tightly controlled
and monitored (Bennett et al. 2015). Image from YouTube user Tim Wells Bow Hunter [https://
322 Scarnecchia and Schooley
popular bowshing species along the Atlantic
Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Fig. 22), were
found by Neer and Thompson (2005) to have
a gestation period of 11-12 months. Gravid
females contained only one pup. Low brood
size has also been commonly found in the
Southern Stingray (Henningsen et al. 2000;
Tilley 2011) and other rays.
Despite these life history limitations, rays
commonly present the illusion of being
highly abundant and, ergo, of recruiting
robustly because of their tendency to move
in groups, often in search of the warmer
temperatures of shallow nearshore waters and
lagoons frequented by swimmers and other
recreationalists. For evolutionary reasons,
the nearshore clustering behavior may also
be most commonly practiced by female rays.
In explaining an observed 3 female:1 male
sex ratio of the Southern Stingray in shallow
waters, Tilley (2011) reported that higher lagoon
temperatures are most likely accounted for
the skewed sex ratio, where females actively
selected warmer temperature. Wallman
and Bennett (2006) found that increased
temperatures of even 1°C decreased gestation
periods of up to two weeks. Their perceived
high abundance is more related to their behavior
(visibility), lack of perceived value as food
amid more robustly-recruiting but desirable
food and game species, and habitat alterations
favoring their localized dominance over other
species (e.g., Parana River: Brazil and Paraguay;
dos Santos et al. 2019). Because they are not
typically favored as food, wanton waste of rays
has also been identied (Lahn 2018). With their
strong K-selected life histories and miniscule
number of ova produced compared to all other
bowshed taxa heretofore considered, they are
not capable of even providing the occasional
boom year classes of episodic recruitment
that can sometimes lead to rapid expansion
or recovery of some other bowshed taxa
(Scarnecchia et al. 2011; 2019). Although rays
outside of petting zoos in public aquaria are
not currently stylish species with the public, for
longer-term ecological reasons their removal
should always be justied through scientically
defensible stock assessments. For some species
such as the Cownose Rays as well as even rarer
ray species, it is possible that because of their
low fecundity, they may be demographically
completely unsuited to bowshing, despite their
current popularity with enthusiasts (Fig. 22).
The effects of culling - In addition to
monitoring the freshwater and marine shes
killed and kept for weigh-ins, culling needs to
be more carefully assessed and monitored in
bowsheries. As the case study of the U.S. Open
tournament demonstrated, the big 20 tournament
format resulted in the killing and waste of an
Figure 22. The Cownose Ray has become an
increasingly popular bowshing species, often
perceived to be abundant and a nuisance to
the public and to oyster beds, even though a
study by Neer and Thompson (2005) found that
females of the species have a gestation period
of 11-12 months and carry only one pup. Image
Source: [www.bow]
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 323
estimated additional 1,919 sh (41% of the
tournament take). These sh were not taken to
the weigh-in where they could be enumerated
by species; tournament data on take must be
collected in such a way to examine the true kill
totals. Whereas bowsheries may create few or
no problems in cases of common, recruitment-
rich invasive species, they can become a major
source of mortality for long-lived species,
native species of concern, or those with low
reproductive success or episodic recruitment,
such as Bigmouth Buffalo (Lackmann et al.
2019), Paddlesh (Scarnecchia et al. 2019b),
and Alligator Gar (Buckmeier et al. 2013;
Daugherty et al 2019, 2020).
Similarities of appearance - Similarities
of appearance can present another problem
for the manager of bowsheries. Bowshers
correctly identifying their quarry at an angle
in often turbulent, turbid water must do so
under a complex array of differential color-
specic light penetration, refraction, and
distortion (Hutchinson 1975). In addition,
ODWC interaction with bowshers at the
U.S. Open tournament provided evidence that
considerable confusion in species identication
can occur among and within families of sh,
even when the sh are viewed close-up, under
ideal conditions, above water by tournament
bowshers, whose passion for the sport might
lead them to be more knowledgeable than the
average independent bowsher. Other studies
on anglers elsewhere in bowshing regions
support these ndings (Nebraska: Reed 2011;
Ohio: Page et al. 2012). Invasive species such as
Asian carps and Common Carp may be targeted,
yet native, long-lived species that recruit more
poorly and more episodically than the invasives
may be inadvertently, and pointlessly, killed
or maimed (Table 3). Consequences can be
substantial. Among cypriniform species, for
example, buffaloshes, long recognized as
important commercial shes (Coker 1930;
Ross 2001), were reported as a popular
bowshing species (Fig. 23) and can often be
difcult to distinguish in the water from carps.
Similarly, bowshing for invasives such as
Figure 23. Buffaloshes, native suckers (Catostomidae), long known as important commercial
species (Coker 1930; Ross 2001), have become popular bowshing targets and have often
unjustiably been viewed as “rough sh” and incorrectly grouped with invasive species as unworthy
of monitored kill and careful stock assessments. In this case, as in many others, bowshers often
take these sh indiscriminately with Common Carp, as depicted here. Images courtesy of Zach
Kjos, North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
324 Scarnecchia and Schooley
Northern Snakehead Channa argus may lead to
unintentional excessive killing of Bown, which
can be difcult to distinguish from snakeheads,
especially under water at a distance (Kusek
2007). Overall, the ancient Bown (Patterson
and Longbottom 1989; Grande and Bemis 1998)
remains a much maligned (Scarnechia 1992),
poorly understood, (Koch et al. 2009; Midwood
et al. 2018), minimally managed species that
nevertheless has long been a source of caviar
(Scarnecchia 1992; Sanderson-Kilchenstein
2015; Polumbo 2016). A recent study by
Polumbo (2016) of morphometric variations
among Bown suggested that there may be
more than just one extant species, leading
to additional management concerns and a
greater likelihood of species or distinct stock
overharvest and extirpations associated with
species misidentications. A similar conclusion
can be reached for the threat to distinct stocks or
subspecies of the Blue Sucker and Southeastern
Blue Suckers (Peterson et al. 1999). Suckers
in general remain poorly studied (Cooke et
al. 2005) ecologically and taxonomically;
overharvest of distinct but unidentied stocks
cannot be ruled out. Freshwater Drum can also
be inadvertently killed by being mistaken for an
invasive carp. Some ray species are also difcult
to distinguish in nearshore waters.
Other management challenges - The mobile
format in some tournaments and many non-
tournament expeditions by private groups
where bowshers can move quickly among
numerous waters statewide, can create additional
management concerns. In contrast to angling
tournaments (e.g. Largemouth Bass), which are
typically held on a single water body, bowshing
tournaments utilizing multiple water bodies
present a notably increased risk of spreading
aquatic nuisance species. Problems in species
identication can be exacerbated where their
knowledge of site-specic species composition
is poor. Unintended by-catch will vary as
species composition varies among waters. To
managers attempting to contain the spread
of ANS, their greatest concern might be that
rapid movements of bowshers also greatly
increases the opportunity for transfer of invasive
ora and fauna such as Eurasian water milfoil
Myriophyllum spicatum, zebra mussels Dreissena
polymorpha (Rothlisberger et al. 2010), or sh.
Bowshing can also create challenges in safety
and compliance for enforcement branches of
agencies. Although Palsbo (2012) found that
archery per se is a very safe sport -- far safer
than hunting with a gun, the more dangerous
bowshing activities may involve boating
(the number one single cause of deaths: U.S.
Coast Guard 2019; McKnight et al. 2007),
associated boat-trailering, and driving to and
from bowshing sites. Over concerns for safety
and liability, most of the high prole modern
bowshing tournaments have been proactive
in prohibiting drug or alcohol use during
events (Cajun 8 2020), and often prohibit use
immediately before and after the events as well
(AMS Bowshing 2020; West Bend 2020).
States often also have specic statutory wording
against hunting with a bow and arrow under
the inuence of alcohol or drugs. Unstructured,
unmonitored, bowshing may present a different
picture from organized tournaments, however.
Bowshing, like other sporting activities,
has long been associated with concurrent
alcohol usage (Gutgesell and Canterbury
1999; Vamplew 2007). Reilly and Halliday
(1985) documented how, as of 1985, the Grand
National Archery Society of Great Britain had
not yet banned alcohol use in its competitions
“in small doses in the belief that it relaxes the
competitor and so steadies the hand” (p. 100).
However, their research failed to support the
long-held belief that alcohol use enhanced
archery performance (Reilly and Halliday 1985).
Alcohol use nevertheless has many complex
relationships with hunting and shing that
transcend performance (Vamplew 2007). The
main effects in unmonitored bowshing may
be on the sh kill. Potential effects may include
enhanced aggression and wanton disregard by
the bowshers toward quarry (Bushman and
Cooper 1990; Bartholow et al. 2005; Wilson and
Peden 2015) and increased likelihood of visual
species misidentication well-documented in
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 325
anglers (Reed 2011; Page et al. 2012) and the
broader public, under poor viewing conditions
and with alcohol use (Woocher 1977). In
particular, it is not well documented how alcohol
or drugs may affect bowsher behavior toward
unpopular, so-called “trash sh” such as gars
widely regarded by them and the public as
nuisances. More studies are needed on the often
simple, but sometimes complex, psychological
aspects and motivations of regulation violations
and wanton waste (Muth and Bowe 1998;
Eliason 2003; illegal or reckless shing as fun:
Curcione 1992), in this case with reference to
bowshing in particular.
Fisheries monitoring - Efcient data collection
must be an integral part of the management
of bowsheries. Based on past studies (e.g.,
Quinn 2010) and ODWC’s experience at the
2018 U.S. Open, large and small bowshing
tournaments may provide a cost-effective venue
for immediate and thorough data collection on
species composition of bowshing take (both
preference and practice), demographics of
bowshers, and other topics relevant to sheries
managers (such as the potential transmission
of ANS). Tournament surveys, either through
cooperation or by mandate (via a tournament
permitting system with required take and
participant reporting), may provide the data
currently lacking for adequate and proactive
management by state agencies (Fig. 24). Non-
tournament creel data will also be useful. Much
data will come from killed sh. However,
non-lethal sampling of sh by agencies (apart
from tournament sampling) is also an option
Figure 24. Bowshing tournaments can provide a centralized, cost-effective venue for kill data
collection (e.g., King et al. 2018) by state sh and wildlife agency personnel, as conducted here
by ODWC at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops® U.S. Open Bowshing Championship in Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma. Success requires cooperation from tournament promoters, support from tournament
sanctioning bodies, or a tournament permit system with mandated kill reporting. Image courtesy of
Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World © 2018.
326 Scarnecchia and Schooley
that can yield complementary sex-specic sh
stock data. Research in the past two decades has
shown that many of the bowshed species also
show sexual dimorphism in ways other than size
(morphology: Spotted Gar: Love 2002; Longnose
Gar; McGrath and Hilton 2012; Alligator
Gar: McDonald et al. 2013; spotting: Bown:
Sanderson-Kilchenstein 2015) and can be aged
with non-lethal methods (e.g., ns: Glass et al.
2011; King et al. 2018), facilitating sex-specic
stock assessment and monitoring where needed
without the necessity of killing the sh.
Funding the management of bowsheries -
Funding for managing bowsheries is another
issue deserving a new appraisal as the sport
expands. Kallman (1987) described how, in
1972, archers and bowhunters joined rearms
hunters as active participants in the well-
established Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration
Program (Pittman-Robertson Act), enacted
in 1937 as a Federal excise tax on hunting
equipment. The process of adding archery to
the program began in 1970 in a congressional
bill sponsored by George A. Goodling (1896-
1982), a United States Congressman (R) from
Pennsylvania with a history of involvement
in Fish and Wildlife Commission activities
in his home state earlier in his career. By
1970, Goodling had become the ranking
minority member of the U. S. House of
Representatives Subcommittee on Fish and
Wildlife Conservation, chaired by John Dingell,
Congressman (D) from Michigan, for whom the
Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program,
a comparable program for sheries, is named
(i.e., Dingell-Johnson Act). In 1972, with the
support and inuence of Fred Bear, the archery
bill nally passed the House and a similar bill
passed the Senate and was signed into law
by President Nixon. An outcome of archery
joining the Federal Aid Program for Wildlife
is that a wide array of archery equipment,
including bows and bow parts (e.g., sights,
grips, wrist slings, bowstrings, and many other
accouterments) became taxed at 10-11% with the
funds overseen by the Fish and Wildlife Service
and disbursed back to the states, who match
it with license funds and use the combined
sum for wildlife management, restoration,
enhancement, and public information and
education (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
2018; Scott Undated). All taxes collected and
disbursed under the Federal Aid programs are
for wildlife rather than sheries except for
“reels and spools employed for dispensing
and retrieving line attached to arrows….used
in shing (p. 5)” (U. S. Fish and Wildlife
Service 2018). Bowshing opportunities with
no bag limits for several invasive species are
expanding rapidly. Administratively, many sh
and wildlife agencies have separate sh and
wildlife divisions. To ensure that the funds are
optimally disbursed between the two divisions,
and between terrestrial and aquatic spheres, it
may become important for managers to gauge
participants and effort in the two spheres and
allocate funds accordingly.
The need for management - All of these
potential stock assessment, management,
enforcement, and funding issues call for well-
thought out, clearly articulated planning efforts
by agencies. Planning needs to consider how to
manage the sh and the sheries, including how
to develop and enforce necessary regulations
(Eliason 2003) such as time-area closures,
possible spawning season protections, and
species bag limits, how to manage and monitor
tournament activities, and how to best develop
and deliver information and education programs.
As a starting point, it may be useful for the
agencies to work together through their national
networks such as the Association of Fish and
Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and its regional
western, midwestern, and southern regional
partners (WAFWA, MAFWA, and SEAFWA)
to develop, with input from bowshers and
their sanctioning bodies, a proactive framework
plan for guiding development of bowsheries.
A framework is necessary to reconcile the
distinctly different goals and objectives of the
modern sport. States can then work individually
and cooperatively as needed in implementing
consistent regulations where feasible yet be
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(3-4), 2020 327
responsive to local or regional interests and
opportunities. Here we list 10 of the many
issues that can be addressed among the
states: 1. a discussion of the need to establish
bowshing-specic licenses or permits, as well
as tournament permits. License and permit fees
might be used to let managers know when and
where tournaments are being held (S. J. Rider,
Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater
Fisheries, personal communication), and used
toward conservation and sustainability efforts,
enforcement, and creel and tournament data
acquisition needed for management (Fig. 24);
2. how to cost-effectively manage and monitor
the sheries, amid increasing participation
and technology-driven shing power, with
its potential effects on native species; 3. how
to evaluate and manage these sheries with
necessary regard to age, size, and sex specic
data needed on the stocks (Fig. 20); 4. the lack
of productive use of the vast majority of sh,
especially native shes, killed by bowshing and
when wanton waste constitutes a problem (Figs.
18, 23); 5. the increase in night bowshing and
its potential challenges and consequences for
effective management and enforcement (Cooke
et al. 2017); 6. a commitment to research non-
harvest mortality and consideration of regulatory
options to reduce the likelihood of escape of
maimed sh (e.g. mandating dip nets); 7. how
to work with enforcement branches of agencies,
bowshers, and the industry in developing
regulations amenable to scientically and
socially defensible, cost-effective, enforcement
(Rider et al. 2019). It is important to develop
meaningful conservation regulations while
gaining the support of an already established,
and entrenched, industry that has developed
around bowshing, so that the sport and its
advocates serve the broader long-term public
interest rather than short-term economic benets
of a few people (Rider et. al. 2019); 8. how to
obtain minimally biased, relevant information
on bowshers and the general public and
their interests and motivations surrounding
bowshing. Comparative information is needed
between perspectives of bowshers and the
general public, who may have different values
regarding bowshing; 9. the need to implement
education programs to change the long-standing,
intergenerational biases against misunderstood
native species (Spitzer 2010) that generations of
sheries professionals have not yet succeeded
in accomplishing (Weed 1923; Scarnecchia
1992; Lackmann et al. 2019). This need includes
proactive information and education for the
many new bowshers entering the sport; and
10. how to fund these management efforts in
the context of existing programs (e.g., Federal
Aid via the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration
Program) and new programs where necessary.
Effective management of bowsheries and
the native species taken will require more
attention and nesse than formerly recognized,
and considerably more funding than has been
available in the past. Funding limitations will
require managers to be creative in determining
how sheries are permitted and designed to
achieve the needed goals and objectives (Rider
et al. 2019), especially those involving valuable,
even if widely underappreciated, native species.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The
Arrow and the Song” begins “I shot an arrow
into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where.”
As managers of the Public Trust, the challenges
for state and federal management agencies are
to use well-conceived planning and modern
technology, cooperate with other agencies, and
work with bowshers, archery and bowshing
organizations, and the public in managing
bowsheries, as other sheries, as instruments
of aquatic species conservation, public benet,
and sound long-term public policy. To prevent
Longfellow’s classic poem from devolving
into doggerel in the realm of management
of bowsheries, managers need to know the
bowshers, work with them, but proactively and
judiciously manage their arrows as they fall:
how many, where, when, and on which species.
We thank the sheries professionals from all
states for participating in the survey, ODWC
professionals E. Brennan, A, Geik, C. Gomez,
328 Scarnecchia and Schooley
J. Johnston, J. Rouk, C. Tackett, and volunteers
J. Currie, G. Kula, S. Martin, B. Montgomery,
and S. Murray for their assistance on the
bowshing tournament surveys, and C. Edwards,
M. McClure, and others at Bass Pro Shops®
Broken Arrow for permitting and facilitating
tournament collaboration. State-agency managers
and biologists K. Cunningham (OK), T. Haddix
(MT), Z. Kjos (ND), F. Ryckman (ND), S. Rider
(AL), D. Riecke (MS), J. Fredericks (ID), C.
Moftt (OR), E. P. Bergersen (CO), and several
anonymous reviewers provided information and
constructive feedback in manuscript development.
L. Sappington, R. Frye and C. Smith reviewed
drafts of Section 2. Our special thanks to A.
Lackmann (ND) for his insightful comments on the
manuscript and permissions to use photographs.
We also thank M. Everhart and P. Everhart for
their constructive comments, editorial efforts
and other assistance on this paper. This study
was sponsored by ODWC.
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... Over the past two decades there has been increased demand for bowfin roe (Davis, 2006;Koch et al., 2009b;Porter et al., 2014;Sinopoli & Stewart, 2021), increased participation in recreational angling for bowfin (Koch et al., 2009b;Porter et al., 2014), and increased harvest of bowfin through modern bowfishing (Lackmann et al., 2022, see Figure S1b; Scarnecchia & Schooley, 2020;Scarnecchia et al., 2021). Although the rate of exploitation appears to be increasing, much of the ecology of bowfin remains unknown. ...
... Thus, the recruitment results that we document require caution in interpretation. Nonetheless, bowfishing is a new and growing sportfishery in need of management (Bennett et al., 2015;Lackmann et al., 2019Lackmann et al., , 2022Lackmann et al., 2021b;Quinn, 2010;Scarnecchia et al., 2021;Scarnecchia & Schooley, 2020York et al., 2022), so the bowfishing-specific results that we document are especially relevant. Bowfin are increasingly being targeted by bowfisheries nationwide, with most targeted fish being discarded (Scarnecchia & Schooley, 2020), while also a growing target of a caviar industry (Sinopoli & Stewart, 2021). ...
... Nonetheless, bowfishing is a new and growing sportfishery in need of management (Bennett et al., 2015;Lackmann et al., 2019Lackmann et al., , 2022Lackmann et al., 2021b;Quinn, 2010;Scarnecchia et al., 2021;Scarnecchia & Schooley, 2020York et al., 2022), so the bowfishing-specific results that we document are especially relevant. Bowfin are increasingly being targeted by bowfisheries nationwide, with most targeted fish being discarded (Scarnecchia & Schooley, 2020), while also a growing target of a caviar industry (Sinopoli & Stewart, 2021). We recommend that efforts be made to obtain otolith data from discarded bowfin. ...
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The Bowfin Amia calva is an amiid (Amiiformes) relict native to North America. It is the last surviving member of the Halecomorphi, a group of fishes that evolved more than 250 million years ago. Despite the phylogenetic significance of the amiids in vertebrate evolution, little has been published about their age and growth. Recreational bowfin harvest is currently unregulated throughout most of the USA, yet new recreational fisheries are emerging. As such, Bowfin are increasingly harvested by sport bowfishing without limit, in addition to their growing commercial harvest for caviar. From 2017–2021 we studied a total of 81 Bowfin from 11 populations across the east‐west gradient of Minnesota within a narrow latitudinal margin (< 50 km) of the 46th parallel north. We compared the allometry and translucence of Bowfin asteriscus, lapillus and sagittal otoliths and found the lapillus otoliths provide consistent readability for age estimation despite being the smallest of the set. Size‐at‐age data derived from otoliths indicated that Bowfin are sexually dimorphic in asymptotic length and may live up to 33 years, which is 15 years longer than previously estimated in wild populations, but comparable to what has been reported in captivity. Overall, 28% of the otolith‐aged fish were estimated as older than the previously reported maximum age for wild Bowfin populations. Our findings suggest that the Bowfin life history may exhibit slower growth, greater longevity, and more variable recruitment than previously recognized, which sets the stage for more otolith‐derived population demographics across their range and age validation study. Our results have direct implications for conservation of Bowfin, especially amidst the increasing rates of exploitation during the bowfishing era.
... The Quillback Carpiodes cyprinus is a widely distributed sucker (Catostomidae) in North America (Parker and Franzin 1991;Braaten and Guy 2002). Many native fishes that were not historically harvested in large numbers by recreational anglers, including the Carpiodes species, are now being pursued in significant numbers via the growing sport of bowfishing (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). Bowfisheries have expanded considerably in the past decade (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020); however, resource management's understanding of the fishery and the species that are targeted has not kept pace. ...
... Many native fishes that were not historically harvested in large numbers by recreational anglers, including the Carpiodes species, are now being pursued in significant numbers via the growing sport of bowfishing (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). Bowfisheries have expanded considerably in the past decade (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020); however, resource management's understanding of the fishery and the species that are targeted has not kept pace. Many states use a broad, non-species-specific classification ("rough fish") to include many native fishes (often unrelated by phylogeny, life history, or habitat), including the Carpiodes, for fisheries management (Rypel et al. 2021). ...
... For example, Carpiodes of Minnesota have no harvest limits (MNDNR 2022). Although this approach may have been adequate when these species were not subject to significant recreational harvest, it may no longer be such during the bowfishing era (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). Thus, an updated understanding of the biology of these species is essential as future management is adapted to meet the evolving fishery and conserve valued native resources. ...
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The carpsuckers, which include Quillback Carpiodes cyprinus, river carpsucker Carpiodes carpio, and highfin carpsucker Carpiodes velifer, are ictiobine catostomids (Catostomidae) native to North America. At present, the Carpiodes are classified for management purposes in a multi-species group (derogatorily labeled “rough fish”) by state agencies throughout most of their USA range. This non-specific fisheries management persists despite widespread declines among Catostomidae in North America, and as additional fishing pressures have recently evolved. Carpiodes are increasingly targeted by bowfishing with virtually no regulation, monitoring, or management. From 2018 to 2021, we analyzed the otoliths of 81 Quillback from a Minnesota population to quantify size at age, onset of sexual maturity, accrual of age spots, and recruitment dynamics. Allometric analysis revealed that otolith size increases with body mass and age at rates greater than rates for total length, scale length, and operculum length in Quillback. Our findings also indicate Quillback can possibly live at least 44 years, reach sexual maturity around ages 8–9 years, accrue black spots on epidermal tissue, similar to age-spot pigmentation in bigmouth buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus, after 30 years, and exhibit more variable recruitment than previously documented. The life history traits of Carpiodes warrant further study for three primary reasons: the “rough fish” label has perpetuated systemic neglect, there are rising rates of exploitation, and the majority of catostomids are already classified as imperiled. Management requires updated life history data in the face of these challenges.
... Modern bowfishing, the taking of freshwater and marine fishes with a bow and arrow or crossbow, is widespread in North America and is regarded as one of the fastest growing types of recreational fishing in the United States . Recent reviews of the sport have highlighted that the technological development and increased popularity of bowfishing have occurred with few or no regulatory controls to protect native, nongame fish species (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020;Scarnecchia et al. 2021). Concurrently, recent life history research on native species commonly targeted by bowfishers, such as buffalofishes Ictiobus spp. ...
... Mature female fish are often disproportionately targeted by bowfishing due to their larger size compared to males in most species (Quinn 2010;Kelley 2012;Stein et al. 2019). Native species taken continue to be held in low social regard, subjected to wanton waste, and deemed undeserving of protections on take (e.g., bag limits or size limits: Orth 2017; Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020;Schooley and Scarnecchia 2021) that are routinely afforded to sport fish species as necessary for their long-term conservation (Rypel et al. 2021;Scarnecchia et al. 2021). ...
... Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation strives for sustainability of native species while potentially providing increased opportunities for take of invasive carps (Cyprinidae) and other nonnative fishes that are detrimental to native species conservation . Although the growth in bowfishing interest is positive from the perspective of a state agency recruiting, retaining, or reactivating fishing license buyers, it must also be practiced consistent with native species conservation, sustainable public benefits, and sound, longterm public policy (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020;Lackmann et al. 2021). ...
In response to lacking information on bowfishing, bowfishers, and management planning nationwide, a survey was sent to 15,000 licensed Oklahoma anglers (bowfishers and non-bowfishers) in 2021. Respondents (n = 1,346) were mainly male (73%) and white (74%), had an annual/5-year license (46%) or a lifetime license (39%), and had an average age of 48 (1,182 respondents provided demographics). Questions to bowfishers gauged the importance of bowfishing compared to other fishing activities; trip frequency and motivation; where, when, and which species were targeted; the utilization of fish taken; and attitudes regarding bowfishing regulations. An estimated 24% of licensed anglers had bowfished before. Bowfishing participation in the previous year had more than doubled (4% in 2018 to 9.1% in 2020). Most (57%) had bowfished for 3 years or less; 49% identified as beginners, 43% identified as intermediate, and 8% identified as advanced. Overall, most bowfishing occurred by day (54%), in early summer (May–July), from shore (49%), and in rivers and streams (67%) or reservoirs (53%). Bowfishers sought carps (85%), gars (74%), and buffalofishes (32%). Bowfishers typically used shot fish for fertilizer or buried them (48%), used them for animal consumption (35%) or human consumption (32%), or returned them to the water (20%). Compared to non-bowfishers, bowfishers reported a wider diversity of acceptable outcomes for fish species taken with any fishing method, particularly the nongame fishes. Most bowfishers (86%) and non-bowfishers (94%) trusted the state management agency to appropriately manage native, nongame fishes. Bowfishers were mixed on their support for or opposition to having bowfishing regulations for these species. Some respondents noted that regulations would result in them bowfishing less (23%) or quitting bowfishing completely (6%). Thirty-two percent of non-bowfishers expressed interest in bowfishing in the future. The results of this survey will be used in Oklahoma and elsewhere to aid in designing sustainable bowfisheries that serve the broader public interest while conserving native, nongame species.
... In the past two decades, many native species have been found to have much longer life spans than formerly realized (Scoppettone 1988;Scarnecchia et al. 2007;Lackmann et al. 2019). And unlike trophies of most terrestrial wildlife (Peterson 2000), most of the largest fish are females (Bell 1980;Hixon et al. 2014;Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). More efficient targeting of trophy specimens has resulted in declines of trophy specimens of many species (He et al. 2019), a trend even depicted in the size of trophy fish in photographs through decades (McClenachan 2009). ...
... Sports such as bowfishing for underregulated native species such as gars (Lepisosteidae) and buffalofishes Ictiobus spp. still retain the numerical component of status (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020), whereas trophies have become important for bowfishers seeking the largest gar species, the Alligator Gar Atractosteus spatula, for which harvest has been regulated (Buckmeier et al. 2016). ...
... This removal has prompted calls for reducing or eliminating the mortality often associated with trophy fishing (Shiffman et al. 2015). Harvest management strategies must be found to retain some large female fish in the population (Hixon et al. 2014;Scarnecchia et al. 2014;Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). In view of increasing fishing pressure, technological advances, and social media outlets in a compressing timescape, managers must more than ever develop an understanding of the motivations of trophy fishers, including traditional anglers, snaggers, and bowfishers, and how to provide the outcomes they seek while maintaining healthy fish stocks. ...
In this paper, we use world record Paddlefish Polyodon spathula catches to exemplify the origins and management of trophy fisheries and the human motivations involved within a continually compressing timescape of advancing fish finding, harvest capability, and communication and information technologies. Conservation of long‐lived species such as Paddlefish, sturgeons (Acipenseridae), or other large species currently challenged by ecological change or habitat losses may be further challenged by the expansion of harvest power through advances in fishing technology in pursuit of trophy fish. Technological evolution may outpace the adaptive abilities of managers to safeguard these fisheries with sensible harvest regulations—often a multi‐year, bureaucratic process. Managers must maintain focus on understanding the ecological nuances of these species while proactively developing resilient harvest management frameworks capable of responding to such challenges in a meaningful and timely way. Our paper may be useful for other fisheries professionals involved in management of long‐lived, trophy fishes and fisheries.
... buffalofishes and gars) indicates that these species are long lived, may recruit irregularly or episodically, and generally employ a life history strategy requiring the maintenance of larger, older females in the stock (Bennett et al. 2015, Daugherty et al. 2020, Lackmann et al. 2019, Love et al. 2019, Radford et al. 2021, Snow et al. 2020. Unfortunately, it is these mature females often disproportionately targeted by bowfishers while these sensitive species are held in low social regard and have no take protections (such as bag limits or size limits) (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). ...
... Data on numbers and types of nongame species taken are a critical component of monitoring efforts that is most simply performed in a tournament setting due to a concentration of bowfishers and a common location for disposal of fish remains. Fish taken in bowfishing tournaments, which in some cases can number in the thousands of native, nongame fishes, are a valuable source for life history data on these species (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). Acquiring these data via traditional fisheries collection techniques would require capture and sacrifice of many fishes, therefore, the aggregated tournament take, even if later buried, could provide a beneficial use. ...
Technical Report
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A report outlining the results of a 2021 survey of Oklahoma fishing license holders on topics relevant to bowfishing and native / nongame species management.
... In the Mexican portion of the southern Gulf of Mexico, a few thousand tons of batoids are harvested annually via targeted commercial batoid fisheries (DOF 2022), though it is unknown whether these fisheries impact batoid populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Similar to the US commercial sector, batoids are rarely targeted by US recreational rod and reel fishers; however, batoids are one of the primary targets of recreational bowfishers, a fishery that has been growing in the USA during recent years (Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020). Since most of these coastal batoids are unregulated, and the number of freelance bow hunters is unknown, the impacts of bowfishers on coastal U.S. Gulf of Mexico batoid populations are largely unassessed (Lahn 2018). ...
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In the northern Gulf of Mexico, batoids are caught as bycatch in the shrimp trawl fishery and targeted by recreational bowfishers. The vulnerability of these batoid species to overexploitation is primarily dictated by their life history strategies. Lessa’s butterfly ray, Gymnura lessae, is a sexually dimorphic piscivorous batoid ranging from the northern Caribbean Sea to Massachusetts. Species in the family Gymnuridae have small, poorly mineralized centra; as a result, age and growth has only been described in one species, G. altavela. In this study, we examined size at maturity, reproduction, sex-specific growth (using Electronic Length Frequency Analysis), instantaneous natural mortality, and age at maturity of G. lessae in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Overall, 552 G. lessae were sampled from 2016 to 2018, of which 322 were male and 230 were female. Estimated disc width at 50% maturity was 340.0 mm and 461.4 mm for males and females, respectively. Sex-specific von Bertalanffy growth parameter estimates were DW∞ = 427.1 mm, k = 1.34 year⁻¹, and t0 = −0.35 years for males, and DW∞ = 882.2 mm, k = 0.40 year⁻¹, and t0 = −0.56 years for females. Instantaneous natural mortality was higher for males (1.48) than females (0.48). Most age-0 males (93.8%, n = 16) and 30.7% of age-0 females (n = 13) appeared to mature fast enough to mate just 1 year after birth. Our results indicate that G. lessae is fast growing, quick maturing, and relatively fecund in the northern Gulf of Mexico and is thus at low risk of overexploitation.
... With persistent size-selective harvest, a longlived species may shift into a shorter-lived species through genetic changes and responses to environment (Kuparinen and Merilä 2007). In most fish species, the largest fish and oldest fish removed are also predominantly females (e.g., Scarnecchia and Schooley 2020) except for species where males compete strongly for females in paired courtship (Bell 1980). ...
We used a large, three‐state data set to investigate if larger female Paddlefish Polyodon spathula reproduce disproportionately more than smaller females. The approach was to assess the relation between fecundity F, expressed as raw egg weight, and fish weight W, in the expression F = aWb. We compared results among three fisheries for Paddlefish harvested in the three states and between two stocks and compared results between total fish weight and total raw egg weight with results across taxa presented in other studies. Paddlefish from all three state‐managed fisheries (Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) showed hyperallometric increases in fecundity, expressed as raw egg weight, with fish weight (i.e., b > 1). For Montana females, hyperallometry was greatest (b = 1.75; n = 8,487), followed by North Dakota (b = 1.61; n = 9,549) and Oklahoma (b = 1.47; n = 14,294). Paddlefish from Montana and North Dakota in general allocated a lower percentage of their total weight to egg weight (asymptotic gonadosomatic index [GSI∞]) than did Oklahoma Paddlefish (Montana: 21.46%; North Dakota: 20.01%; and Oklahoma: 24.22%). The hyperallometric increases in raw egg weight with fish weight reported here depict only one of several conservation benefits associated with maintaining larger and older fish in the populations. Conclusions about weight–fecundity relationships for a particular species should be considered with an adequate understanding of the complete life history and factors which would affect somatic growth versus fecundity tradeoffs.
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The bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is an iconic freshwater fish native to North America that is in decline. Recent studies have revealed bigmouth buffalo exhibit a slow pace of life, yet demographic information on bigmouth buffalo outside of North Dakota and Minnesota is lacking. We used otoliths to investigate population demographics of bigmouth buffalo in Canada, and also monitored bigmouth buffalo spawning frequency and reproductive success in the wild. From a sample of 52 fish collected during 2018 – 2021 we found bigmouth buffalo from the Qu’Appelle system more than 125 years old. Only 13 year classes ranging from 1894 – 1997 were evident with only one year class since 1948, indicating recruitment has been episodic. During the past decade (2013 – 2022) bigmouth buffalo have spawned only once (May of 2013) in Buffalo Pound Lake. This spawning effort culminated in recruitment failure because the water-level recession rate was too rapid. Our findings indicate that bigmouth buffalo spawning attempts as well as recruitment occur within a narrow range of water-level fluctuations that may rarely occur, which is enabled by their supercentenarian lifespan, and has direct implications for the conservation of this species.
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Channel catfish (Ictalurus puncatus) and freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) are two commercially and recreationally important species in large rivers of the Midwestern United States. Understanding their population demographics is essential to managing sustainable populations. In this study, we determined and compared the size structure, individual growth, and mortality estimates of channel catfish and freshwater drum among the Illinois River and sections of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash rivers to provide a current baseline for managing these populations. Results suggest that both fishes differed in size structure among rivers. Compared to all other rivers, the Mississippi River freshwater drum growth rate was the highest and the theoretical maximum length was the lowest, and the Ohio River annual mortality was lowest. Channel catfish growth did not differ among rivers, but annual mortality was significantly higher in the Mississippi River compared to the Wabash River. Given the importance of these two fishes, better understanding of their population demographics in these systems is essential to improving current and future fisheries management programs.
Freshwater recreational fisheries regulations are a vital tool for achieving social and ecological fisheries objectives. However, angler behavior and fish biology may interact to influence regulation efficacy in unexpected ways. We combined models of fish growth and angler behavior to explore how angler behavior interacts with fish life history to shape the probability of fish harvest given capture across ages, life-stages, and sexes of walleye (Sander vitreus). Compared to females, males grew more quickly as juveniles, matured earlier, and reached smaller maximum sizes. Male walleye were therefore vulnerable to harvest for more of their reproductive lives than females because males spent more time at sizes where anglers were very likely to harvest them. We suggest that restricting harvest of large individuals in sexually-dimorphic species may favor the survival of large, reproductive-aged females. Moreover, we show that combining models of fish growth and harvester behavior can provide insights into how harvest affects fish with complex life histories over the course of their lives.
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Archaeologists contend that it was our aptitude for symbolic, technological, and social behaviors that was central to Homo sapiens rapidly expanding across the majority of Earth’s continents during the Late Pleistocene. This expansion included movement into extreme environments and appears to have resulted in the displacement of numerous archaic human populations across the Old World. Tropical rainforests are thought to have been particularly challenging and, until recently, impenetrable by early H. sapiens . Here, we describe evidence for bow-and-arrow hunting toolkits alongside a complex symbolic repertoire from 48,000 years before present at the Sri Lankan site of Fa-Hien Lena—the earliest bow-and-arrow technology outside of Africa. As one of the oldest H. sapiens rainforest sites outside of Africa, this exceptional assemblage provides the first detailed insights into how our species met the extreme adaptive challenges that were encountered in Asia during global expansion.
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Floodplains are an important part of large river ecosystems ‐ the frequency, timing, duration, and spatial extent of inundation drive habitat quality and determine the suitability of these habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Managers have traditionally had very limited information to evaluate and quantify the dynamics of large river floodplains. Alligator gar use floodplains in the lower Mississippi River for spawning and have experienced declines in historic range that have been partly attributed to declines in spawning habitat availability. Alligator gar has therefore been identified by the American Fisheries Society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and many state agencies as a species of concern in the lower Mississippi alluvial valley. The goal of this project was to develop landscape level spatial data to determine the extent and quality of floodplain habitat that may be available for alligator gar spawning. Multitemporal analysis of remote sensing imagery was used to develop spatial data products that define floodplain inundation extent, inundation frequency and temperature. These products were combined with existing layers of physical habitat structure to define and quantify spawning habitat suitability throughout the entire area subject to direct inundation by the lower Mississippi River. Habitat suitability categories were defined based on meeting unique combinations of inundation, thermal and physical structure so that the most suitable conservation measures can be applied to improve local conditions.
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Growing appreciation of biodiversity and the role of apex predators, along with increasing popularity of multispecies and trophy‐oriented angling, has elevated the status of gars – in particular, the Alligator Gar Atractosteus spatula – among anglers and biologists alike. As a result, considerable effort has been spent in recent years to gain a working knowledge of the biology and ecology of the species in order to advance science‐based management. In January 2019, the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society Alligator Gar Technical Committee hosted a symposium entitled, Advances in the conservation and management of North American gars to showcase the results of research and management efforts conducted throughout the species’ range. Fishery researchers and managers presented a diversity of works, furthering our understanding of population dynamics, stock assessment, genetics, hatchery practices and stocking, habitat use, and angler desires associated with Alligator Gar fisheries. In this introduction to our special section, we introduce these works and provide a synthesis of the current state of scientific knowledge regarding the Alligator Gar. We hope that this will provide context to the works presented in the symposium, and serve to guide the development of future research that addresses remaining knowledge gaps concerning the species and its growing fishery.
Considerable efforts have been undertaken to characterize population dynamics of the Alligator Gar Atractosteus spatula. Accomplishing this task required identifying suitable structures to estimate age. Buckmeier et al. (2012) validated sagittal otoliths to 31 years — the oldest fish in their study. However, they noted that interpreting annuli became increasingly difficult with age and cautioned that difficulties may result in underestimates of age for older fish. In recent years, sampling efforts have resulted in the collection of otoliths from a number of large (>1,800‐mm total length [TL]) individuals. Age estimates of these fish ranged to 68 years; however, accuracy of these ages was unknown. Therefore, we used bomb radiocarbon dating to assess accuracy. The technique measures the time‐specific increase in the radioactive carbon isotope (14C) in calcified aging structures resulting from the testing of thermonuclear devices in the 1950s and 1960s. An abrupt, worldwide increase in environmental radiocarbon ~1958 acts as a time stamp, providing a reliable means of corroborating age estimates of long‐lived fishes. Core material (i.e., hatch year), along with a subsample from early growth years, was extracted from the otoliths of 24 Alligator Gar (1,805‐ to 2,540‐mm TL) and analyzed for Δ14C. Estimated age from growth zone counting ranged from 26 to 68 years, corresponding to hatch years spanning 1946 to 1989. Otolith Δ14C was then plotted against the corresponding hatch years and compared to reference curves for environmental 14C levels across time. Despite evidence of regionally specific trends attributed to differences in groundwater and surface inflows, Δ14C levels in the otoliths were highly correlated with reference data, indicating that age estimates were accurate to within a few years. Thus, our results extend the utility of methods developed by Buckmeier et al. (2012) for Alligator Gar in excess of 60 years and provide greater insight on longevity.