Justin Burnett/The Record — Jay Johnson, a Camano resident, muscles in a grass carp at Lone Lake on Friday. He and two other bow fishermen have been hunting the lake at the request of area fishing clubs. The carp eat vegetation and are believed to be linked to a trout die-off last year resulting from low oxygen levels.

Bow fishermen return to Lone Lake for carp

Two more carp are in the bag and out of Lone Lake.

Bow fisherman hit the water again Friday night, scouring the shallow banks in search of grass carp, a former savior of the popular South Whidbey fishing hole. About 800 of the vegetarian fish were introduced years ago to feast on the invasive weed, Brazilian elodea. Mission successful. But, fast forward nearly a decade and the fish are still there, still hungry. They’ve consumed so much native vegetation that the lake last year was reportedly starved of oxygen, resulting in the death of an estimated 1,000 trout.

They’ve also gotten big, real big. Some top 20 pounds. That’s all made them an attractive target for anglers, but the aquatic herbivores are to difficult to lure to bait. Though they are sterile, Whidbey and regional fishing club leaders want them out and have recruited off-island members of the Washington Bow Fishing Association for the job.

There wasn’t much arm twisting involved.

“This is fun,” said Camano Island resident Jay Johnson, while fishing in the rain on a wet boat at about 9 p.m.

He was one of three bow fishermen who splashed into Lone Lake last week aboard a customized aluminum boat. Outfitted with a large shooting platform on the bow and rigged with powerful lights, the vessel patrolled the shallows looking for slumbering carp. The lights seem to stun or dull the fish for a few precious seconds so the fisherman can fire off a shot with compound bows equipped with reels and 200-pound test line. If their aim is true, the fisherman half reel, half muscle the carp in.

Joining Johnson was Dylan Zugschwerdt of Renton and Jim Lamphere of Redmond. Despite the light rain, chilly breeze and equipment problems — a busted generated forced them to retire early — the three bowman clearly enjoyed themselves. Bow fishing is exciting, they say, and is increasingly popular.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America,” Zugschwerdt claimed.

Zugschwerdt and Johnson fished the lake for the first time last month, shooting nine carp. The trip was successful but alarmed some residents. The men were at one point visited by a sheriff’s deputy, who reportedly got a few calls from lakefront property owners.

Clayton Wright, a Whidbey Fly Fishing Club member who helped recruit the bow fishermen, said a club member was tasked with informing residents of two scheduled trips, April’s and this past Friday. Some didn’t get the message, however, and expressed surprise and/or alarm about the fishermen and their lights.

“Still, people thought they were UFOs or something,” Wright said.

No police showed up Friday, but some homeowners poked their heads out of doorways and seemed either alarmed or unaware of the fishermen’s activities. While only two trips were planned, Wright said more are needed. He estimated that about half of the 800 introduced eight years ago are still alive.

The Whidbey Fly Fishing Club, Whidbey Fishing Club and several more off-island clubs all pitched in to help restock the lake with 450 jumbo trout. Reducing Lone Lake’s grass carp population will help vegetation recover and protect the clubs’ investment.