HOPEDALE, LA (WAFB) - The day started out like any other fishing trip, with hours of preparation fueled by high expectations.
“Guys just don’t realize how many fish are out there,” charter fisherman, Andrew Messenger, said. "Tonight, we’ll go and find some grass ponds and probably see 500 little gar fish and red fish.”
Messenger has hosted strangers at his dock in Hopedale, Louisiana for years. It’s part of a childhood passion that became a livelihood.
“I don’t consider it a real job, but the hours are like a real job," Messenger said. "I work plenty enough for it.”
But that work becomes play as the sun begins to set in the western sky. That’s when the bows come out.
“When you start seeing the bait fish, your adrenaline gets going and you’re like, ‘Okay, there’s gotta’ be a big red chasing these bait fish," said Hambone Burnaman, a frequent client of Messenger’s at Hoss Bowfishing.
As the night gets darker, the hunt gets faster. Each fisherman is trying to reel in that coveted, juicy big red.
“It’s like golf. You can hit 1,000 bad shots, but you hit one good shot and you want to keep playing golf," second-time bowfisher, Mark Cifreo, said.
When the sun goes down, Messenger flips on floodlights attached to the side of his boat to illuminate the murky water beneath. Hundreds of fish swim by in plain sight.
The fisherman then becomes a hunter, using a bow attached to a reel to shoot the fish and pull them in. They’ll tell you both sports require the same level of patience, though.
“You feel like you’ve accomplished something when you finally get one,” Cifreo said.
The sport has been around for centuries, dating back to indigenous peoples who used bows to secure their meals, but these days, it’s hard to find experts like Messenger, who is as much a teacher as he is a fisherman.
“Just showing them the water and seeing their excitement makes it worth it,” Messenger said.
But it’s not the thrill of the hunt, the fish, or the sunset that makes bowfishing unique to Louisiana.
“It kind of brings people together,” Cifreo said. “Good Louisiana boys.”
“Camaraderie. You see it. It’s just a fun sport,” Burnaman chimed in.
Fast forward six hours, and the crew is unloading a hefty catch of 29.
“You can have good nights and you can have bad nights," Burnaman said. "Tonight, I didn’t shoot as many fish as I wanted to.”
There’s always next time.
For more information on Hoss Bowfishing charters call Andrew Messenger at (225) 329-3295 or visit http://www.hosscharters.com/home.html.