Autumn’s golden hues might be a distant memory, but you can also find bowhunting fun in months that don’t end in “er.” How? By bowfishing! Stalking finned prey with a bow keeps you bowhunting throughout spring and summer. Better yet, it’s an active sport in a social environment – invite all your friends along! – and provides lots of shooting opportunities. You don’t need to sit quietly waiting on your prey, and if you miss your first shot, that’s ok. There’s no need to pack up and head home. Just wait for the next fish, and try again.
Does that sound like something you might enjoy? Here’s what you need to know to try bowfishing.
What is Bowfishing?
Bowfishing combines fishing, bowhunting and spearfishing. Its basic strategy? Spot fish in shallow water and stalk in close for a shot. You’ll shoot special barb-tipped arrows at fish, and then haul or reel in your prey with a line attached to the arrow.
Bowfishing opportunities abound nationwide in rivers, ponds, lakes and coastal saltwater shallows. You can wade, use a boat or shoot from shore. Bowfishing requires only a few extra pieces of gear, and you can probably convert your current bow into a bowfishing rig.
Bowfishing’s three key components are a bowfishing reel, line and fishing arrow. The reel mounts to the bow. Spool it with strong fishing line. Attach the line to the bowfishing arrow so you can retrieve it after each shot, hit or miss. An archery shop can help set up your reel.
Standard hunting bows easily convert for bowfishing by adding a bowfishing reel and bowfishing arrow. Several manufacturers offer bowfishing kits to easily convert your bow with minimal cost. Bowfishing reels screw into the bow riser’s stabilizer bushing, or mount to the bow’s side. Bowfishing arrows carry barbed points, and their shafts are heavier than standard arrows to ensure they zip through water.
Another good option is to buy a bowfishing bow, which protects your hunting bow from water and damage. Bowfishing’s fun, often-frantic action can be hard on bows, especially when several bowhunters share the same boat, and big fish get hauled on board.
If you decide to purchase a bowfishing bow, start with an old bow or look for used bows online. Pick one that expresses your personality and meets your price point. Maybe you have a compound bow and want to try a recurve. Either style helps you spend hours of fun on the water.
Local archery shops are the best place to buy bowfishing equipment and get up-to-date tips on nearby bowfishing action.
Species and Regulations
Read your state’s bowfishing regulations and license requirements before starting. Regulations set by the state’s fish-and-wildlife agency typically limit bowfishermen to “rough” fish and invasive species. Gar, rays, carp and suckers are the typical target species for bowfishermen. Invasive species like Asian carp and snakeheads are also common quarry. You can explore various fish species and their distinctive markings here.
Bowhunting 360 will provide more bowfishing articles in the weeks ahead. Check back in early March to learn how to bowfish for carp.