Just about everyone who tries bowfishing loves it. It’s a social sport with multiple shot opportunities that gets you outside and can be done at night or during the day. Bowfishers can target a variety of species, depending on where they live, but these five are our favorites.
All are plentiful, easy to find and fun to pursue — and several of them are great to eat, too.
Want to reel in a big, powerful fish with your bow? Go for the common carp. They’re large, muscular fish, so they’re easy to locate from a distance, especially in late spring and early summer when they move to shallow waters to spawn. Listen and watch for loud splashing, then sneak in close on foot or by boat for a shot. Common carp run in small schools swimming side by side, which is ideal for multiple shooters. Get into a bunch of common carp, and you’ll realize why they’re a favorite of bowfishers everywhere. The small ones are also good to eat.
Frog legs are tender and delicious. Stalking big bullfrogs along a shoreline or in a swamp is heart-pounding, adrenaline-producing fun. You must move quietly and slowly to take these critters before they spring away. They’re almost impossible to arrow midjump. If you’re stealthy enough, you’ll have time to get close and aim carefully, but their small size will challenge your shooting abilities.
F&S hunting editor Will Brantley goes bowfishing for stingrays.
Posted by Outdoor Life on Tuesday, June 28, 2022
If you’re looking for an epic fight with a beach in the background, try bowfishing for stingrays. Cownose, bullnose, southern and butterfly rays all fight like mad and offer a unique bowfishing experience. They’re not as accessible, since they’re a saltwater species, but if you can tack a bowfishing charter for stingrays onto a summer vacation, do it. You’ll be amazed at the experience.
Sleek and agile, longnose gar are challenging targets that can provide abundant shot opportunities in big river systems. You’ll hit them either well or not at all. Longnose gar typically swim slowly along the surface, alone or in small groups, but they seldom stop. Archers must react quickly and take surprise shot opportunities as they unfold. These are toothy, powerful fish that can reach 5 feet in length. Cleaning them is a chore, but they’re great to eat.
Flounder are another inshore favorite for bowfishing, especially in Florida. Not only are they challenging to shoot, but they’re some of the tastiest fish that swim. Flounder have elongated, flattened bodies so they’re not too difficult to hit, if you can see them. Adults sit on the seafloor and have good camouflage, which makes for an awesome game of hide-and-seek bowfishing. It’s most productive to target them in 2 to 4 feet of water when they’re feeding on inshore flats, but some people enjoy pursuing them in deeper water, where you must adjust your aim to account for depth and water refraction.
You can’t go wrong when you go bowfishing. Whether you pursue one of these species or something different like snakehead, suckers, catfish, sheepshead, dogfish or mullet, and whether you’re successful or not, the adventure will still be fun because you can talk, practice shooting your bow and hang out with your friends.
Check your state wildlife agency’s website to find season dates and information on bowfishing laws and regulations, including what fish species are legal to shoot and whether you need a fishing license, hunting license or both.
If you need help getting started, read these helpful articles.