Watertown's Hunter Larese brings in a big grass carp

When noted outdoorsman Marc Larese of Watertown loads his gear for a trip, sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s going hunting or fishing.

Could be both.

He might be going bow-fishing -- hunting for fish.

“It’s a challenging sport that’s really caught on in recent years,” Larese says.

An indication of bow-fishing’s popularity: Larese guides bow-fishermen on night-time excursions to Percy Priest Lake. He books about 50 trips a year, April through September (615-479-1760).

“I could probably book more if I wasn’t busy traveling,” says Larese, a national field rep for FoxPro Game Calls.

Larese was introduced to bow-fishing a few years ago by wife Ann, after she tried it with friends during a Cordell Hull camping trip.

Marc began bow-fishing with Ann, joined by their son Hunter. Archery runs in the family. Hunter attends the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., on an archery scholarship.

“My first bow-fishing rig was pretty simple,” Larese says. “I tied a line to an arrow, with the rest of the line coiled in the boat. Someone held a flashlight in the front of the boat.”

Nowadays bow-fishing gear is specialized and elaborate -- high-tech bows and arrows, and shallow-bottomed boats with lights mounted on the sides and an elevated seat for the archer.

The boat silently eases through the shallows, lights searching for targets cruising just below the surface. That’s the hunting part.

Spring is prime time to bow-fish, when the fish are spawning in shallow water. When a fish is spotted and the arrow connects, it is hauled in by the line attached to the arrow.

Only “rough fish” – non-game-fish species -- can be taken by bow-fishing. Rough-fish species are grass carp, common carp, buffalo, drum and gar. The biggest Larese has arrowed was a 50-pound grass carp.

Although the rough fish are inedible, they don’t go to waste.

Larese keeps his catch on ice until he can deliver it to a neighboring farmer who processes it into hog food. Some rough fish are also used for fertilizer and pet food.

The Middle Tennessee Bow-fishing Facebook website and the Bow-fishing Association of America, of which Larese is a member, reminds bow-fishermen to never to dump their catch around boat docks, ramps, or other public areas. That happened at Hunter’s Point on Old Hickory Lake a couple of summers ago. The smell, flies and buzzards rendered the area almost unusable.

“Most bow-fishermen are very ethical,” Larese says. “There’s not the problem (with dumping) that there once was.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency supports bow-fishing, both as a recreational activity and as a way to reduce nuisance species in area waters.

“Bass fishermen in particular like bow-fishing,” Larese says. “Rough fish can destroy bass beds by churning around in the shallows during spawning season. I’ve had bass fishermen ask me to shoot all I can.”

That’s his aim.

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