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What do you know about Bowfishing?

Archery Bowfishing

Have you heard of Bowfishing? You think you have, but not sure how to do it or what is needed? Bowfishing is a sport that is very rapidly becoming a must do for archer and fishermen. It is a way of using an archery bow and a reel to fish. There is a specialized arrow that is used called a barbed arrow, there is also a special line to a reel that is mounted to the bow. Bowfishing requires a combination of equipment setups, easy shooting and knowing where you can fish and types of fish you can fish for. Let’s learn more about bowfishing

What is needed for Bowfishing?

You can get started with any type of archery bow.  However, you will need to add a reel to the bow you use. If you have an extra bowhunting bow or one that you don’t really use any more, it is very easy to change over to a bowfishing bow. Keep in mind that you will not be able to use the traditional string or arrows that you bow originally started out with. You will need to switch over to specialized items for bowfishing. If you buy a bow just for bowhunting make sure you adjust it to at least 25 lbs.Bowfishing

The arrows that are used need to be heavy, so that they can pierce through the water and hold up to impacting a rock or other object in the water and even the fish. Once the arrow reaches the fish, it needs to be sturdy enough to pass through the fish. Most of these arrows are made of fiberglass, and have screw in barbed tip on the arrow. This will keep the fish from sliding off the arrow once it is pierced.

Each item can be bought separately or in a package. A good beginner reel is a bottle style, if you don’t mind pulling the fish in by hand. If you prefer the traditional style of fishing, then you should get a spincast reel. This way you can reel in the fish the same way you would with any other rod.

Do I need a license to bowfish?

In most states the answer is yes. Check out the regulations in your area, each state has its own fish and game laws, and it is up to you to abide by the different laws.  For example most say you do not need a special license, but you will need a fishing license. While some areas require a small game hunting license. To find out what is needed you can go on the fish and wildlife website to learn the restrictions and license needed.

Where to bowfish

When most people think of fishing, they think of going out in a boat or being on the shore line. While this is also true for bowfishing, it can also be done in an  kayak or even on a stand-up paddleboard. This allows the bowfisher to combine three great sports. If doing bowfishing from a bank, look at the water’s edge for feeding or spawning fish. But make sure that the fish your looking to catcher is one that is on the legal list to fish with an arrow. Remember check out the  information on the fish and wildlife website. Rivers, ponds, bays, beaches and lakes are also a good place to go fishing. Usually you will want clear water that is shallow.

Tips to get you going

  • Good draw weight around 40-50 pounds
  • Compensate for refraction
    • Use what is called a 10-4 rule
    • Example- is the fish is 10 feet away and only 1 foot under the water then aim 4 inches low
    • You will want to hit the fit in the thickest part on the fish, this will make sure the arrow is securely in the fish.
    • Can’t aim exactly at the fish because the light refraction will distort what you are seeing. If the fish is really deep than you have to aim even lower. A good pair of polarizes sunglasses will help with this.
  • Know that there is no catch and release. Once the fish is pierced with the arrow the fish is killed.
  • You don’t need expensive equipment. Start with what you have and modify it.
  • Have patients you will miss a lot at first. The more you shoot the more you will hit your target fish.

How to practice

You can  practice by shooting at strands of seaweed, with the movement in the water this will help you get use to a moving target. If you want to start off with a stationary target place one in the water making sure the depth is shallow. This will also help you get used to the light refraction, and the illusions that you see with the water distortion at the same time. If you just going to start out by shooting at some fish to remember that once you hit one the arrow will pierce it and it will die. So, make sure it is a fish that you are allowed to shoot at with an arrow.

What invasive fish can I catch

Usually you are allowed to catch, most are in the category of rough or trash fish:

  • Carp- Most common
  • Perch
  • Catfish
  • Gar (Longnose, Shortnose, Spotted, Alligator)
  • Dogfish
  • Flounder
  • Paddlefish
  • Threadfin Shad
  • Bigmouth Buffalo
  • Smallmouth Buffalo
  • Freshwater Drum
  • Tilapia
  • Bowfin
  • Sharks
  • stingrays
  • Suckers
  • Other rough fish


So now ask yourself what I know about bowfishing is should be a lot more. Remember the deeper the fish is the lower your aim should be. Find out if it is legal to bowfish in your area, and what license you need. Modify an existing bow that you already have in your possession. Practice for the light refraction. Eat what you catch because the is no catch and release options. Bowfishing is a good off -season sport that will help keep your archery aim sharp and accurate. Always check with your state for the different regulations because each state is different another good example is, Florida bowfishing for game fish is prohibited, and in Georgia arrows must be equipped with barbs for recovering fish. So there could be some minor adjustments you may need to make depending on where you are going.

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Bowfishing Archery

Graham Mitchell

What started out as a fun summer camp activity, has become a passion of mine over the years. Whether it's target shooting, competitive archery or bow hunting, I hope you find this site to be a valuable resource of archery information.

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