It is a sign of spring. Sure, the dogwoods and Bradford pears begin to bloom. The grass begins to grow. And certainly, it is just a matter of days, not weeks, before everything begins to collect a hazy yellow film from the pollinating pines and other plants. But to me, at least as of the last few years, the true sign of spring is when the sucker fish begin their spawn.
In a manner not unlike the great salmon of Alaska, the sucker fish will make their way upstream to an ancient spot that many, many generations have congregated throughout the centuries. They flap on top of the water as they squirm over shallow runs, depositing their eggs and secretions along the way. Often, if you are lucky enough to time the event, it usually lasts only a week or so, you can catch dozens upon dozens rolling amongst each other in their annual dance.
Of course, being one fond of the outdoors and bowfishing, this ignites the inner spirit within me. No longer must I brave the cold, the biting wind, and the other wintery elements nature has to offer. While I do enjoy it, the seasons remain in motion for a reason. They keep us from the having a passion that grows too monotonous to continue. The seasons pass so that we have something to look forward to as new challenges and adventures await.
Yes, as the sucker fish work their way over distances, I envision myself as hunters of days passed. Much like the Native Americans hundreds of years ago must have done, I ready the draw on my bow, though it is much more technologically advanced than the ones used then, and release an arrow toward the golden fish. My arrow contains a string and barbed point. Theirs were likely longer arrows without a tether. Many used sharpened sticks to gig the fish instead. The suckers provided nourishment and an easy catch during the spawn. The suckers do the same now as well.
Last year my daughter was fortunate in taking a sucker fish as her first animal with the use of a bow. She did it on the last day we were able to attend the spawning affair. In the process, she held the North Carolina State bowfishing record for youth female.
This year, she was anxious and willing, and we were able to get out the creekside once again. I also held the overall North Carolina bowfishing record at 5 pounds 14 ounces. On the first night, I was able to bring in a nice 6 pounder. Officially measured, it came up to 5.99 pounds. Since the weights are not measured in hundredths but rather ounces, it temporarily breaks my old record by 2 ounces. After a busy day of birthday parties and dancing recitals, I was able to take Julianne back out. I would guide her, hoping it would not take the hundreds of shots it took the previous year before the hit was made.
Using a LED Lenser headlamp, I searched the shallows and the running waters. She had taken a couple of shots, just missing each time. Then, about 10 yards away, there was a flurry of motion as several fish climbed, wallowed, and rubbed over each other. She pulled back the bow, and before I could finish the statement ‘shoot when you are ready’, she released the biting arrow.
Yes, she hit her mark and the arrow’s barbed point held the fish tight. We were able to pull it to the shore moments later. Official weight: 6.01 pounds. Luckily for me, it gets rounded off to 6 pounds and 0 ounces.
Now, at least for the time being, Julianne and I will share the state record. That is until someone else is able to find the ancient spawning runs and share an experience with the spirits of old.