Like shooting fish in a nearly dry river

From the left, Dave Olds, Kelly Seal, Austin Freed and Gary Savage begin walking the Arkansas River, looking for deep holes that may contain fish.

Trust me, kayaking the Arkansas River just south of Wichita is no cakefloat. I hear fishing’s not much better

Both are because of this @#$@#$ drought that’s been choking us dry for two years.

Well, there are some people who are making the best of an arid situation.

One afternoon last week Kelly Seals, Austin Freed, Dave Olds and Gary Savage walked through 100-plus degree heat and out onto a river that was mostly ankle-deep. Seals said this year has been one of their best-ever for bowfishing. Gar, carp and other rough fish are concentrated in what few holes they can find on the Arkansas. In some places it’s kind of like shooting fish in a sandy-bottomed barrel.

The first place with consistent action was probably half-mile from where they entered the river, along an outside bend of the Arkansas where the current had scoured a hole probably four or five feet deep.  It was holding a lot of nice gar, carp and some bottom-feeders I’m not really sure of the exact species. At first the fish were high in the water and calm. After a few shots they were either deep and out of sight or racing out into the shallows, away from the shooters.

Eventually, shots were few and far between.

That sent the foursome patrolling for other holes holding fish. Several times Seal walked to where he’d found them before only to find the water shallower than expected, and empty of fish. Finally Savage made a long aqua-hike and  found a mid-river spot that had a run of two to three-feet of water…and it was holding a lot of fish.

Bowfishermen work a school of carp and other rough fish in a rare pool on the Arkansas River.

The bowfishing buddies spread out, taking shots as fish passed, giving each other hard times and congratulations. The action lasted about a half-hour. By then the sun was too low in the west for good fish-viewing and the next possible hole deep enough to be holding fish wasn’t even in sight downriver.

Austin Freed pulls a carp ashore.

“This will be the last time until we get some more water,” Seal said of the low-water and lack of fish.

Scratch one more type of outdoorsman from enjoying the Arkansas River near Wichita this horrid, hot summer.

A longnose gar swims in the shallows.