Thousands of baitfish darted in every direction as the hum of our airboat approached an uncharted backwater of the great Mississippi. Breaking the waters surface, each fish tried to avoid detection from the massive set of lights that slowly approached. Their numbers were staggering, reminiscent of a scene right out of Discovery’s hit series “Planet Earth”! Perched above on a homemade tower I gazed down on two-bow huntresses at the ready. Jana Waller and Angie Yedor clung to their bow-fishing rigs scanning the deep for any signs of large predatory fish that inhabit the bayou. Off the starboard side a huge shape disturbed the waters stillness. Captain Alan Yedor steered the boat towards the giant swirl. Now the night hunter became the hunted. Like a scene out of jaws the giant fish showed itself for an instance and then began to make its escape. Jana zeroed in on the black mass, drew her bow and released a bright orange fiberglass arrow into the shallow muddy water. Four hundred pound braided line spun off her reel at break neck speed. An epic battle was under way between a giant bayou blue and a huntress who’d just discovered one of Louisiana’s best-kept secrets.
When you think of New Orleans one thinks about the NFL’s Saints, LSU Tigers and the two-week long celebration “Marti Gras”. Cajun country has long been tabbed “a true sportsman paradise”. World class fishing and hunting can be had through out the 31’st state. Jana and I got an invite from Alan Yedor owner of Southern Style Bow Fishing. Alan has been bow fishing the bayou for the past 28 years. “ My bow is an extension of my arm. When I see a fish I just go on auto pilot and seldom miss!” says Alan. Holding two world bow-fishing titles, its no wonder Alan is all business on the water! Specializing in alligator gar, redfish and giant blue catfish, Jana was excited about full nights of bow fishing and I couldn’t wait to film it for another exciting episode of Skull Bound TV.
We met with Alan after a scenic one-hour drive south of New Orleans. Angie Yedor, Alan’s better half, would be joining Jana for the entire trip. Coming off a recent bow-fishing tournament, Angie and Alan came in 7th out of 63 teams. With the weather forecast calling for calm conditions and a zero percent chance of rain we loaded up our gear and waited for the sun to set over the Gulf of Mexico. “ We’re gonna to make a run 26 miles to dis spot I know that holds giant catfish” Alan said in his thick Cajun accent. With any luck we’d be tied in to some of the giant blues that call these waters home.
Night was fast approaching us as we made final adjustments to our AMS bows and camera equipment. Alan’s boat was a machine! If you’ve ever watched the end of the feature film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” then you can imagine the type of lights his boat was equipped with. If there was a fish within 30 yards of this boat you were going to see it! Alan even went to the extremes of building a center console on top of his boat to spot fish and film from. Lights, cameras…. action!
The run to the “ blue cat hole” took us a solid hour. Crossing the mighty Mississippi at night only made the adventure that more exciting. An hour later we gazed upon a pristine backwater with perfectly calm conditions. Taking off his earmuffs Alan looked at Jana and said these three words…. “Ready to rumble?” Jana smiled and said, “ Lets do this!” Firing up the on board generator, Alan moved to the front of the boat and grabbed the forward steering column and began to slowly navigate the 500 HP airboat boat in search of baitfish. The lights lit up an enormous area as Angie and Jana took several practice draws. Overhead a 3/4 moon hovered like a lantern helping light up the bayou. “This area holds catfish as big as your leg. Keep your eyes peeled!”, Alan said as I watched from the homemade tower. Mullet, shad and other baitfish began to jump in every direction creating a silver symphony as the light reflected of their shimmering sides. “ We’re in a good area keep your eyes peeled for alligator gar and big cats…they’re here I promise you!” Alan sounded off as we looked for any signs of the predatory fish! Within a few minutes a giant alligator gar appeared like a mirage in front of the boat. Angie had little time to draw her bow and shoot before he slipped under the boat. Like she’d done so many times before, she instinctively drew and fired hammering the 5-foot monster directly beneath her feet. Line spun off her bow as the big fish made its escape.
Fifteen minutes had passed since arrowing the big fish and now we were getting close to seeing the scaly beast for the first time. As the big gar approached the boat I could see the barbs of the arrow tip barley hooked in to gars tail. “ Jana shoot him”, Angie shouted as water sprayed from the power of its massive tail. Suddenly the line went slack and he was gone. “ Dat there was a machine” Alan said with a grin on his weathered face. Having been defeated the three of us moved on to a new stretch of the bay and began to notice another giant wake created by something leaving the shallow water in front of us. Jana and Angie honed in on the massive swirl and silt left on the waters surface. Suddenly the huge fish appeared just in front of the boat. “ Look at that catfish”, Alan shouted out to both women as they both tried to find the grey shape moving beneath the water’s surface. Just then we all saw it and I can say there are true river monsters still out there lurking in the deep. This was by far the biggest catfish I’d ever gazed upon. Our mouths were a gape as the monster moved through the shallows then disappeared into deeper water. “ Did you see that?” Jana said as she turned to face me standing above on the homemade platform? “ I saw it! That catfish had to weigh nearly 100 pounds”, I shouted back as the sound of the generator continued to feed the power to our array of lights.
With the alligator gar getting away and a 100-pound catfish pulling a disappearing act the three of us felt pretty deflated! Ten minutes had passed since seeing any fish when the water’s surface erupted from another school of baitfish. A dark shape laid motionless 2 feet below as the airboat approached. Angie drew back and released an arrow and this time her hit was perfect. The water erupted as the fish came to life throwing water in every direction. Slowly she began to gain control of the big catfish and Jana wasn’t taking any second chances as she followed up with a second shot in to the big blue. “ That’s him ladies….bring him on over to the side of the boat” Alan said as he reached down and grabbed the fish by its mouth. In on swift motion Alan lifted our first fish of the night in to the boat. A 57 pounder hit the deck and began to shake its massive tail. “ These are the best eating catfish in the world ” Those words some how stuck with me all night as the hunt continued on and my curiosity of how a catfish of this size actually tastes?
We nailed a few 20-pound catfish and some 40 pounders but still hadn’t had an opportunity at another big blue until the last hour of the hunt. Jana was still at the ready as Alan maneuvered the airboat in to an area he hadn’t hunted in a year. Suddenly a familiar shape moved slowly through the shallows to Jana’s left. “ Do you see him?” Alan asked as he nosed the boat closer to the unsuspecting giant. “ I’m on him…just a little closer”, Jana whispered. Drawing her bow I began to record her shot and it was noting short of textbook. The giant blue cat erupted like a volcano spewing water and mud all over us. He was in some of the shallowest water we’d seen yet! After a solid 10 minutes of
fighting the old fish Alan reached down and pulled in the biggest catfish of the night weighing in at 60 pounds. Exhausted and ready for a break the three of us made the one-hour trip back to the boat launch just in time to watch the sunrise come up over the Gulf coast. All in all we’d caught over 350 pounds of fresh blue catfish with two bows and a lot of determination! Two hours later the last fish was filleted, washed and cut in chunks for the deep fryer. Southern style bow fishing’s Alan and Angie Yedor have the catfish recipe down to a science. Jana and I dined on some of the best fish I’d ever put in my mouth! We even had enough left over to eat on our second night out. Although we didn’t get any giant alligator gar due to murky water conditions, we’ve already booked a trip back to search for giant gar and the best-kept secret in Louisiana “Bayou Blues”.