LA Senator Dan Claitor has authored Senate Bill 573 that would eliminate the taking of red drum with bow and arrow. It's nothing new. There was a similar attempt a few years back that failed to become law. This bill is slightly different in that its only rationalization is that redfish are classified as "gamefish" in Louisiana and that other gamefish species such as bass, bream and sacalait cannot be taken with bows and arrows even though any other species fresh or saltwater can. Incidentally no one seems to care about all the other species like sheepshead that far outnumber the number of redfish taken. Other "game" that can be legally taken by bow and arrow include deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels ducks, quail and many other species.

Some of the common objections to bow fishing are it's done at night with lights that "immobilize" the fish making them easy targets, bow fishermen cannot live release any undersized fish that are shot and redfish bag limits are commonly exceeded and could cause redfish to be pushed to extinction. None of those arguments are valid. Anyone who believes lights "freeze" fish has never bow fished at night. Not only will they swim away from boats and lights, the phenomenon known as "light refraction," an optical illusion adds to the degree of difficulty pointing and shooting accurately at a target that is not really where it appears to be. Fishermen do have the responsibility not to shoot at undersized fish just as sportsmen have many other judgments they are expected to make. Like properly identifying similar species of duck in both flight and in low light situations, hens from tom turkeys, does from bucks not to mention the identity of many species of offshore fish that must be released if caught during a closed season. I think most bow fishermen can estimate a fish less than 16 inches long and when in doubt, don’t shoot. If they are caught with undersized fish they can be cited like any other angler. An undersized fish shot with an arrow is less likely than a rod and reel fishermen hooking a 13 inch fish in the gut.

As far as the potential of wiping out redfish, there is absolutely no evidence that redfish are in any trouble. In fact if anything population estimates suggest an increase in limits could easily be withstood. If redfish were ever to get in trouble, why would a 1or 2% harvest method get cut instead of the much larger source of harvest, namely rods and reels? If an accident victim is bleeding profusely from a severed femoral artery, would a surgeon try to stop a finger cut first? But that's not even worth discussion since redfish are nowhere near in peril. It’s not a conservation question, it's a social issue.

It's also an economic issue. Bow fishing has become a popular charter business bringing in valuable tourists dollars while providing an exciting and challenging sport.

So what's the motivation? Some people who don't particularly care for bow fishing, who would never do it, don't want anyone else doing it even though it does them no harm other than to provide some insignificant competition for the same resource. And competing for resources fairly is not illegal the last time I checked. So they try to legislate competitors away.

If it's being done on private property we have laws to prevent trespassing. In fact we have many laws to protect redfish whether you call them "game" or not. They cannot be sold into commerce, cannot be gill-netted, cannot be kept if caught in federal waters, have slot size limits and a very conservative 5 fish per angler daily limit. What difference does it make whether a fish is killed with an arrow or with a treble hook? It's all in the eye of the beholder. My prediction – there's not enough evidence that bow fishing should be banned. It's not unethical, immoral or a detriment to resource conservation. My guess is that an informed legislature will (pardon the pun) shoot it down, again.