Bowfishing On The Arkansas River. Legal Or Illegal?

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Wichita man is speaking out after a police officer threatened to put him in jail for something that is perfectly legal. After fishing the normal way for years, he recently decided to try bow fishing.

People are out every day on the river doing recreational activities. Fishing is obviously one of them. But John Fusilier ran into a bit of a problem last week when someone saw him fishing here with a compound bow and arrow.

"I usually just walk up and down the banks of the Arkansas River," Fusilier said, "basically with a good pair of polarized sunglasses. You find your fish, see where it is, take your time and aim your shot."

But one day last week, Fusilier knew something was up. A citizen reported him as a suspicious character. Minutes later when an officer arrived, he was told he was carrying a dangerous, unconcealed weapon and was breaking the law.

"I didn't appreciate the threat of being taken to jail for something I knew I was in the right for," Fusilier said. "He (the officer) shut me down at every avenue when I tried to tell him, look it's legal."

Fusilier contends that knowing local laws and regulations is a primary responsibility for hunters and anglers.

"As responsible hunters, we need to know where we stand as far as laws go," explained Fusilier. "You should know that. You should check on all the state, federal, and city regulations and make sure you are in the right."

Taking a look at the city's weapons ordinance that applies in this case, municipal code prohibits carrying an unconcealed dangerous or deadly weapon of any kind, but also specifically states a person has to have intent to use the weapon in a dangerous or deadly manner. In Fusilier's case, he's simply fishing for sport.

Wichita Police admit the officer in this case, a sargeant supervisor, was mistaken.

"The best thing here for us as a police department is to use this as a learning opportunity to make sure we're clear on what the ordinances mean," said Lt. Doug Nolte. "We know that we sometimes make mistakes."

Fusilier claims he is not trying to call out the police department, but he simply wants to educate not only officers, but citizens as to legal hunting and fishing activities within the city limits.

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