Bowfishing FAQ

Bowfishing FAQ

How can I get started bowfishing?

If you are considering bowfishing, getting the right gear is the first step. You can easily retrofit an existing bow and get the rest of the gear at a reasonable cost. Be warned, however, that bowfishing equipment takes a beating, so you may not want to use your favorite bow for this sport. Here is a list of the essentials.

A recurve or compound bow. A basic hand reel or a more advanced, retriever-style reel. Durable fiberglass or carbon arrows without fletching and with barbed bowfishing tips.

Here are a few other accessories you need: An arrow safety slide that prevents tangled line and arrow snap back. Rests and roller rests that are tunable and durable enough for the heavy arrows. Rubber protectors, or ‘finger savers,’ to protect fingers from repeated drawback.

Before you go, check out your local bowfishing regulations and restrictions. And be sure you know which fish can be legally harvested.

What is the best draw weight for bowfishing?

An average draw weight of 25-35 pounds should be enough to hit your target. This weight will generally send a heavy bowfishing arrow about 2-3 feet deep. Draw weights of 40-50 pounds provide enough range for more advanced bowfishing, while anything over 60 is too high and will bury an arrow in the mud.

You can, however, start with even lower weights, especially for kids who are just getting a start. While the arrow will not travel as far, you can still fish in shallower waters with shorter ranges. Whether you use a recurve bow or compound bow, the draw weight will depend on what is most comfortable for you and the type of fishing you plan to do.

Where should I aim for bowfishing?

Since the fish you see through the water is a refracted image, aiming straight at your target won’t work! A rule of thumb is: aim low and then even lower. How far away the fish is, the depth of the target, and how tall you are all factor into where you should aim the arrow. Practice, along with patience and perseverance, will help you master accuracy. Eventually, aiming becomes instinctual, and beginners are often surprised by how quickly it becomes second nature. Shooting within ten feet and using a well-tuned bow will also improve your accuracy.

Where can I find carp for bowfishing?

Carp is the most common fish sought after when bowfishing. This invasive species was brought from Europe to the United States in the 19th century. They are now found in abundance throughout the country.

Carp tend to gather in still, shallow pools with muddy bottoms and in cattail marshes. During the spring spawn, they hang around shoreline brush, and their abundant numbers make them easy to snag even during the day.

The best time to catch carp is during the night. A bow mounted light with a wide beam is a must for nighttime bowfishing. Lights mounted on boats or headlamps also help find the catch.

What fish can you shoot with a bow?

State game and fishing laws regulate which fish species are open for bowfishing. Some of the fish species that can be legally harvested include various species of Carp and Gar, River Carpsucker, Threadfin Shad, Bigmouth Buffalo, Freshwater Drum, Catfish, Tilapia, Stingray, Asian Snakehead, and Bowfin.

Do you need a license for bowfishing?

Like any fishing or hunting, you need a license for bowfishing and each state regulates licensure differently. Also, before heading out, check on local weapons and archer ordinances. Some lakes allow bowfishing only under certain conditions and in certain areas.

Can you bowfish during the day?

Yes! Many people prefer bowfishing during the day. Wading along banks of rivers and creeks is a perfect way to spend a summer day. Dams and overflows provide habitat for many fish species that can be caught bowfishing. Although nighttime is more popular for carp, many people enjoy catching them during the day, especially during the spring spawn.

How long has bowfishing been around?

For thousands of years, people have caught fish with bows and arrows as part of their staple food gathering. Today, bowfishing is an activity to get food, have fun, and practice your shooting skills at the same time. It also helps to regulate invasive species.

In 1919, all United States lakes and rivers were open for bowfishing at night. Eventually, residents of lakes prompted some restrictions on nighttime bowfishing. In 1958, Fred Bear, an avid bowfisherman, developed some of the first gear for the sport. Since then, bowfishing has taken off, and today it is enjoyed throughout the country.

What is a bowfishing boat?

A bowfishing boat needs to navigate in shallow, often muddy waters. Therefore, a flat-bottomed boat with a trolling motor works well. Paddling a canoe into shallow waters is another option. Many advanced bowfishers use an airboat or air fan for skimming through cattail marshes while looking for carp.

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