By Howard Meyerson
KALAMAZOO, MI — Bryan DeGoede and his buddies were cruising the backwaters of the lower Kalamazoo River shooting fish with bows and arrows, when he took aim at a black buffalo just before midnight. The big fish turned up in powerful light being used to spot them.
The 29-year-old bow fisherman from Kalamazoo let his arrow fly and quickly nailed what would turn out to be the new state record black buffalo.
“It came out of nowhere,” said DeGoede, member of Team Death From Above, a four-man competitive bow fishing team that competes in Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky tournaments. “It was a fun shoot that night, just the four of us. I didn’t think it was quite that big, and we left in the barrel overnight. Then, my buddy looked up the state
record and said: ‘We might have a state record on our hands.’”
Record indeed. DeGoede’s 37-pound, 4-ounce black buffalo measured 39.4 inches. It trounced the 33-pound, 4-ounce, 36.5-inch record shot on the Grand River in Ottawa County by Bradley James Nietering in 2004. DeGoede shot his the night of Sept. 6.
“DeGoede’s is a big fish,” said Jay Wesley, the southwest Michigan fisheries supervisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We are seeing more of them due to the growing popularity of bow fishing. Everyone that brings one in says they are seeing bigger ones. That record will be broken again.”
Buffaloes are members of the sucker family. The bigmouth and black buffaloes are two species found in Michigan waters. Black buffalo inhabit large river systems such as the Kalamazoo and St. Joseph River. They also are found in big waters such sa Muskegon Lake and lakes Erie and St. Clair. Michigan’s Master Angler list, a compilation of large fish caught on state waters, shows the majority of black buffalo reported were taken on the Grand River with a bow and arrow.
DeGoede, who was fishing with Nate Griffioen, Tara Zantjer and Travis Weezner, of Vicksburg, said he got into bow fishing 10 years ago. He began with the bow he used for deer hunting and added a special reel to spool the line attached to his arrows. Today, he and his teammates are sponsored by AMS Bow fishing and Muzzy, two manufacturers of bow fishing equipment.
“Bow fishing is so addicting,” DeGoede said. “There are so many fish to shoot at. You have constant action, a lot more than with a rod and reel. We had 30 fish in the boat by 9 p.m. that night.”
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