The growing popularity of bow fishing in Minnesota is starting to cut into people’s sleep.

It is not advantageous to the sleep cycle when loud airboats get too close to lake homes while hunting for targets in the early morning hours. Yet the law does not strictly forbid the sport – if it can be done safely and hopefully, quietly.

Homeowners on the Deer Lake-East Lost Lake portion of the Otter Tail River found one of these powerful flat-bottomed craft cruising near shore recently. With a motor that can make a sound like an industrial-strength lawn mower it proved a huge annoyance twice on Saturday – at 3:30 a.m. and again at 10:30 p.m.

An airboat can run in the shallows because there are no parts operating under the waterline. It is an ideal platform for fishing with or without a bow and hunting. Pushed along by a prop wash of up to 150 mph, airboats are steered by diverting air one way or another. Like any boat they lack brakes so cutting power is the only way to stop them.

In addition to the noise, banks of bright lights, intended to illuminate fish under the water, have found their way inside bedrooms and camp tents onshore.

Fergus Falls conservation officer Troy Richards said that “most of the time” the airboat motors operate at higher decibels than allowed.

Richards also noted the type of noise is not always from an engine.

“Loud music on board at 4:30 a.m. in the morning is not appreciated,” Richards said.

Richards is not surprised by the choice and volume of music being played while bow fishing at night. Most of them are in their early teens to mid 20s.

“It’s right in their wheelhouse,” Richards said.

But there is such a thing as courtesy and there is also a state statute that forbids bow fishing within 150 feet of a dwelling and 300 feet of a campsite. Violating the order can net the offender a $135 fine. If anyone bow fishing is found guilty of more than one violation in a three-year period of time their misconduct can result in a one-year revocation. Richards said the penalty for fishing after a revocation can cost the guilty party $500.

Is using an airboat to fish becoming a problem? Richards has handled only four complaints this summer. Lake homeowners can also be at fault.

The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office handled a complaint earlier this year that involved a threat with a weapon, according to Richards.

“Sometimes people don’t realize what they are doing,” Richards pointed out.

Taking fish by spears or arrow is something that can be done almost all year around.

“The only time it closes down is at the end of the game fish season,” Richards said.

So who is in the wrong?

“Sometimes it’s a little of both,” Richards said in the growing problems between bow fishing and lakeshore owners. “The bow fishermen may not know all the rules but neither do the cabin owners.”

Is this a problem that is liable to vanish in the wink of an eye?

Richards has his doubts. He sees the problem growing.

“On a personal level it is because there are more and more people bow fishing,” Richards said. “It is a recreational activity they can be pretty successful at.”

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