Bowfishing is yet another fun, exciting activity that gets you outside with your bow and arrows. And while you’re at it, you can help the environment by targeting invasive species that wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. That’s because most fish you’ll hunt with your bow are exotics like Asian carp, common carp, and the silver, black and grass carp.
You’ll need some specific bowfishing gear to get started, including a reel, arrow and maybe even a bow made specifically for bowfishing. In fact, you’ll find everything you need at an archery shop for less than the cost of high-end fishing rods and reels.
But because bowfishing gear isn’t your standard bowhunting equipment, we put together this gear guide to get you started.
Much like a traditional fishing reel, bowfishing reels store the line and help you crank it back in after each shot. The two types of reels used for bowfishing are bottle styles and spin-casters.
Bottle-style reels are simple and ideal for beginners. They have few moving parts and are easy to use. They’re also affordable without skimping on performance. When hauling in fish with a bottle reel, you retrieve the line hand over hand because the reel lacks the power and “backbone” to reel in fish. Even so, they’re reliable and easy to use, which makes them a great choice for beginners.
A spin-casting reel lets bowfishermen play the fish, much as they would with a regular fishing reel. Experienced bowfishermen prefer spin-casting reels because they make it easier to reel in big fish.
One cautionary note about spin-casting reels is that you must press a button on the reel before shooting to put it into “free spool” mode. That setting lets the line feed freely from the reel as the arrow streaks toward a fish. Because the line attaches to the arrow, if you forget to punch the reel’s button into free spool, the arrow will jerk to a stop or break the line upon release.
Bowfishing reels attach to your bow, with bottle reels mounting on the side and spin-casting reels mounting on the front. An archery store will set it up and show you how it works before you leave.
Arrows and Points
Bowfishing arrows, which are made of fiberglass or a fiberglass/carbon-fiber composite, are stout and heavy so they can drive deeply into the water. These arrows carry barbed screw-in points that resemble a harpoon. The barbs securely anchor the fish to the arrow so it can be reeled in without coming off.
Another difference is that the fletching on bowfishing arrows doesn’t resemble fletching on standard arrows. These special fletchings reduce drag when slicing through the water. Bowfishing arrows are more expensive than standard arrows, but you only need one to catch hundreds of fish, and it costs the same as a 12-pack of low-priced golf balls.
Compound and recurve bows work well for bowfishing. Compounds make a more compact package and generate faster arrow speeds, but recurves are less expensive and better for snap-shooting. You can also buy bows designed for bowfishing or retrofit your hunting bow for bowfishing.
No sight, no problem. Bowfishing requires a fast-paced, instinctive shooting style. Therefore, most bowfishermen do not mount sights on their bows. They shoot instinctively, which isn’t as difficult as it might sound because you seldom shoot far while bowfishing. After getting a feel for how the bow shoots, your mind naturally aims the bow.
Bowfishing accessory packages contain everything you need to get started, including a reel, arrow and fishing line. These packages cost about as much as new sneakers, and convert your bow into a bowfishing rig. One great benefit of these packages is that you can save money by buying everything together.
By now one thing should be clear: One quick trip to an archery store, and you’ll be on your way to stalking fish with a stick and string. Knowledgeable staff will help you select the right bowfishing accessories and then set up your rig. They can even offer bowfishing advice for your area. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start having fun on the water!