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What is Bowfishing? The Ultimate Guide

The world is full of exciting activities or sports, and bowfishing is one of them. Unless you are that kind of a person who prefers curling up on the couch all day long, bowfishing is definitely a sport you can engage in.

Initially, many people believed bowfishing was for those who practiced archery or hunting enthusiasts. However, in recent times the tune has changed, and it has become a fun outdoor sport for everyone interested. It combine the fun of fishing with skill of bow shooting.

One of the many reasons why people are now into bowfishing is that it’s a fishing technique that is easy to lean and requires no prior experience.   If you’re looking for details on bowfishing and the steps to take as you get started, then you’re certainly in the right place. Check out this awesome video:



What is Bowfishing?

As you might have already gotten a hint, bowfishing is hunting or fishing technique, which uses arrows and a bow. But don’t get it twisted because it is not necessarily the same as spearfishing or bowhunting. At first glance, the two techniques appear similar since sharp, pointed objects are being used to catch the fish.

There is nothing like a baited hook.

On the other hand, there is a key difference in that bowfishing relies on the use of a bow to propel an arrow and catch the fish while spearfishing relies on your hand to get the work done. Bowfishing is increasingly popular in the United States and Canada because people don’t need specialized long-range shooting skills. Newbies find it easy to engage in the sport. After all, the target is much closer.


Here is what you need to start Bow Fishing

Bowfishing might sound simple and easy, but there are still nuances here and there. If you are new in the sport, don’t just assume things. Take time to learn what is supposed to be done and the rules of the sport. On that note, I will outline what you need to know before going bowfishing. This will ensure you have the best experience and a fun time.

What are the ideal places to go bowfishing? Remember, it’s not every location with a lake or river that is suitable for this activity. I would recommend that you choose a lake or river that you know well if you are still gaining experience in the sport. This means that you should be perfectly aware of where the shallow waters are, places with fast currents, and even vegetation areas. This will be quite beneficial for your bowfishing experience.

With that said, there are plenty of places where you can go bowfishing. Just remember, the waters have to be shallow and transparent. Depending on what is available, you can bow fish in a lake, river, reservoir, or stream. Additionally, keep an eye out for the fish patterns so that you can know exactly where to find them. For instance, some fish species spawn in the clumps of aquatic vegetation such as weed beds and grasses. There are also some regulations about Bow fishing that you can familiarize yourself with before you choose a location.

The right time to go bowfishing

Before getting started, take some time to practice and augment your skills. The truth is that beginners may not shoot any fish during the first outing. But as they get better at the sport, it becomes super easy to catch lots of fish. To fully enjoy the sport, practice as much as you can, and within a short time, you will already be a pro bow fishers.

That aside, many people usually want to know the most apt time to go bowfishing. The good thing about bowfishing is that it’s adaptable and will most likely match up to your prospects. For instance, if you are thinking of catching the huge carps, the best season is in summer. These types of fishes are mostly active in the morning and evening.

Another thing is that the timing will mostly depend on your penchants. If you like being outdoors during the daytime, there is a chance you might have some luck and shoot a handful of fish.

All things considered, the best season for this would be the summer.

Furthermore, night owls can bowfish almost all year long, considering that the carps are active at night year long. But the best timing would be in the spring season when the fishes are close to spawning.

Speaking of spawning, the majority of bowfishing aficionados believe the time of the year where you are likely to shoot the most carps using a bow is the spawning season. It is believed that the fish are more susceptible at this time and most visible, making it easy to shoot on target. Many of them will be on the reeds completely preoccupied.


Have you ever seen how predators hunt down prey? It’s got something to do with stealth, and the same concept applies in bowfishing. Bowfishing is typically done at a close range, and the waters are also shallow. Therefore, when approaching such waters, you have to be careful so that you don’t scare away the fish. Keep in mind that fish residing in shallow waters tend to be wary of intruders and will spontaneously scatter off if you make the slightest clamor.

You can creep up on your target to move in slowly from the shore and keep an eye out for twigs of other obstacles that might make noise when stepped on. Also, when you identify a fish you want to catch, don’t cast a shadow over it. Lastly, approach from the upwind direction.


Aiming is the part where your bowfishing skills come in. Consequently, if you want to be successful in bowfishing, you have to perfect your skill in aiming. Besides, this should not intimidate or worry you. Each time you engage in a bowfishing outing, you get to develop your aiming skills, and with the time you will be good at it.

Meanwhile, I will take you through a short lesson which you probably had already learned in school. Do you remember anything about refraction? If you do, then you surely know light travels differently in water. Water is typically denser than air. Therefore, when light waves hit the surface of the water, they bend. This is what is referred to as refraction. The mainquestion is, how does this apply in bowfishing?

Due to the refraction of light, objects underneath the water are not where they appear to be. Rather, they are lower than that.

Thus, when you spot a target in the water, you have to aim lower. The truth about bowfishing is that it does not rely on sights for aiming. It’s all about your instincts, which will develop and get better with experience.

I could tell you to aim low, but that’s no walk in the park for a beginner. When starting out on this sport, it won’t be that simple to figure out just how low you should aim. But as I said earlier, the instinctive feel for accurate aiming will come with experience. However, there are a few thumb rules to get you started. For starters, aim at least six inches below your target to counter the water refraction. This is an especially helpful tip for beginners.

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Bowfishing equipment

The good thing about bowfishing is that you can do without the multifaceted and posh equipment. You will definitely require equipment for fishing but they are nothing complicated. First and foremost, you will need a bow, some arrows, and reel.

  • Secondly, comfort is all that matters. Given you feel comfortable holding your bow, you will not miss out on a chance for an unforgettable bowfishing experience. Some people make the mistake of choosing heavy-duty bows thinking these are the best for the sport. In all honesty, the most imperative thing is that the bow should properly support a reel and arrow rest. Anything else is not really necessary, and the extra weight will most likely tire your hands.
  • Next in line is the reel. You will come across three types of reels, namely the bottle reel, hand reel, and the spincast reel. Hand reel is the simplest one of the three types, and traditional bowfishers commonly use it. There are advantages of using this reel, which include the fact that it’s affordable, works quite well with the recurve bows, and it rarely breaks. Unfortunately, you will be forced to do a lot of manual work than you would with any other type.

The bottle reel is a popular bowfishing reel. Pulling a line will not pose a challenge, but you might have to try harder to get those precise longshots. The spincast reel is definitely the type of reel that will make your life a whole lot easier. Well, for starters, the fishing reel comes already mounted on the bow; hence it’s super easy to use. Also, anglers can retrieve the line faster, allowing the opportunity of taking many accurate shots. However, the main setback with this reel is quite expensive.

  • The final element on the list is the arrows. Bowfishing arrows are not simply any ordinary arrows. There are arrows made specifically for this kind of sport. Another important consideration is the species you are after. Some of the species have hard scales. In this case, you will need a sharp and pointed tip that can penetrate the skin.

What fish can you shoot with a Bow?

You don’t just wake up one day, grab a bow and arrows, and randomly shoot fish in the name of bowfishing. On the contrary, in many of the states, bowfishing for the game species is an illegal activity. This means in almost every state, bowfishing for the non-game species may be legal.

With that said, regardless of the state, you will not run out of bowfishing opportunities or have a hard time finding plenty of fish to catch. For one thing, there has been a surge in the invasive fish species, which are causing trouble and making the aquatic environment inhabitable for other species. That’s why many states are now allowing residents to bowfish the non-game species as a bid to manage the populace of invasive fish species.

On that note, each state has defined the type of fish that are legal for bowfishing. These rules and regulations differ in each one of the states. This is the reason why you have to make sure you are familiar with the rules before setting out for a bowfishing adventure.

Freshwaters are usually the most popular hunting locations for the bowfishers. This is where you will come across an abundance of rough fish. Enthusiasts mainly target the common carp because it’s a highly invasive fish, and shooting them is an environmental-friendly gesture. Other fish species that serve as suitable targets include Alligator Gar, Buffalo, Freshwater Drum, catfish, Bowfin, and Paddlefish.

In the salt waters, there are a couple of species that you can target. These are notably the fish species that can be found close to the shore. For most people, Flounder is the obvious target. You can’t possibly get it wrong with that one. Aside from that, add on the list mullet, small sharks, sheepshead, and stingrays. There is no doubt bowfishing in the saltwater changes the entire experience into a thrilling adventure.

Where is it legal to Bowfish?

For decades, bowfishing was a sport that was either undiscovered or simply ignored. However, the dynamics have changed, and it’s now a popular pastime for an ever-increasing number of people. Well, if you are in the category of adventurous people who like nothing but the outdoors, then this sport is the way to get your adrenaline gushing.

As more and more people trek outdoors with bows and arrows ready to shoot, the question as to where it’s legal to bowfish comes to mind. Obviously, you must ensure you stay on the good side of the law. If you’re a bowfishing enthusiast, it’s your responsibility to be aware of any rules and regulations set by the state.

So, where is bowfishing legal? Bowfishing for the non-game species is legal in many of the states across the USA. The popular ones are Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana. There are many other states where bowfishing is legal, but it’s recommended that you take time to review local laws and anything else.

Bow Fishing regulations

Now, bow fishing regulations entirely depend on a particular state. As a matter of fact, regulations and game laws are different with every state. Regardless of where you go bowfishing, you must have a sport fishing license. It’s your responsibility to ensure you obtain all the licenses and permits needed for bowfishing in your state.

There are also regulations for the kind of arrows to use. In many of the states, arrows should contain barbs to make recovering the fish easy. In some states, there are also legal hours and seasons for fishing with bows.


Archery Tips from repeat ASA shooter

Archery and bowfishing go hand in hand. More often than not, the best ASA shooters have spent years of their lives practicing archery as a sport or pastime. Consequently, to be successful in bowfishing, you should know a little bit of archery. This is where you learn to get as many shots on target as you possibly can. Check these tips borrowed from the best ASA shooter;

Learn to overcome target panic

Panic is something we all experience, and it can creep up on you when shooting a bow. In this case, you might spot your target and miss it simply because of freaking. Unlike other sports that involve shooting a bow, bowfishing doesn’t rely on sights but rather quick thinking and accuracy. You cannot think well and determine where the actual object is if you panicked.

A good example of target panic is when a shooter gets anxious while aiming and feels the urge to fire the release immediately; the pin settles on the target. What happens is you will fire the release prematurely and miss the shot on the target.

As I mentioned earlier, in bowfishing, you will be shooting at an object in water. The ability to compose yourself and take the time to figure out where the real object is located is what matters. On that note, there is a way you can teach your mind to settle on a target without prematurely firing the arrow. Create practice time in which you aim at a bull’s eye, but you don’t pull the release. Keep doing that to see how long you can effectively aim at a target before the shot breaks down. The time length will increase with more practice.

How do you grip the bow?

There is a way you can grip the bow, and it makes the task so much easier. There is particularly no wrong grip, but the most important thing is to maintain consistency. Additionally, don’t grip onto the bow as if it’s running away. You just need to relax your hands completely and let the fingers gently lie on the back of the grip. Keep in mind, having a consistent grip will work wonders for those accurate shots you want.

How do you stand when shooting a bow?

One of the critical parts of shooting a bow is how you stand. Ensure your body is planted solidly on the ground. You wouldn’t want to trip or stumble just before firing a shot. In archery, there is something referred to as stance. Your stance should remain consistent from one shot to the next. This way, you are able to maintain the accuracy of your shots. If you want to aim well, keep your feet shoulder-width apart so that you are steady. Additionally, open your hips up to the target.

After achieving a trance, you are comfortable with, practice in the same position until your feet naturally learn to align themselves. Before long, you will have a repeatable trance.

Can Bow Fishing be done in a Kayak or a Canoe?

Many times I have seen people bowfishing form the shores, and they seem to really enjoy themselves. Remember not everyone has a boat or a buddy with one that they can use to get into waters and bowfish. However, those who seek a more thrilling adventure can take on a kayak or canoe. The only setback is that bowfishing in a boat can be more challenging than it is from the show. For starters, you will need a vessel that has a flat bottom so that you can easily stand on it and make a shot. Secondly, if it’s a boat, the motor should be quieter so that you don’t scare away the fish.

Aside from all that, we were talking about bowfishing in a kayak or canoe. If you have been wondering whether it’s possible to bowfish while in a kayak, the answer is a big yes but it will not be a walk in the park. The majority of the people who are likely to do this are also kayaking enthusiasts who want to combine the sports. In this case, you need to have skills in kayaking, archery, and bowfishing to have the most fun out there.

How to approach Bow fishing from a kayak or canoe

You are already aware that bowfishing can occur in kayak. The question is, how do you go about it? I will first of all, have to say that it’s not going to be easy. Though it’s not impossible either and so many people are now bowfishing and kayaking at the same time.

Essentially, its important to search for a kayak model that will offer the most stability. Standing on a kayak that is not stable will definitely not do any good to the accuracy of your shots. For one thing, get a model with a high sidewall and preferably be the one usually used for traditional fishing. A traditional fishing kayak has more space for you to keep your gear and a place to stand on.

You can also get a sit on top kayak since it usually has space for standing. Bowfishing is typically done in shallow waters, and if there comes a time when you feel shooting while standing in water will be better, it’s easier to get off a sit on top kayak. There are other types of kayaks that you can pick, depending on the features you find desirable. However, stability and space should be paramount. In case you can’t stand in the water, then at least there should be space for that in the kayak so that you can get an accurate shot.

With that said, it can be a bit difficult to bowfish in a kayak. If this is so, the next available alternative would be a canoe. Ideally, a canoe will offer more stability and space than a kayak. Therefore, it’s a better choice for bowfishing. You will realize that a canoe is wider in size, and this makes it suitable for a person to stand up and shoot a bow with ease. Also, don’t forget the extra space will come in handy when you need room for gear and to keep the caught fish.

Some people will not really know how to approach fish in a kayak or canoe. Fish in the shallow waters are not necessarily the easiest to catch. This calls for extra care and you to be tactical. Though, it can be as simple as quietly positioning the pin close to the fish, picking up the bow, rising up on your feet, and taking a shot at the fish. Well, it’s always easier when said than done. For starters, the fish might not even be still there by the time you have taken on a suitable shooting position and fired the arrow.

The best timing is when the fish are feeding or spawning. For instance, if you happen to disturb fish in their feeding area, they will most likely return after a short time to continue feeding. You don’t have to keep moving from one place to the next. Bowfisher should remain in the same place and wait for the fish to return to the area. This method will work perfectly well for the wary fish.


How do you bowfish during the day?

Bowfishing at night is not that difficult because you can easily spot the fish. However, things are different during the day. Firstly, you have to know where to find the fish during the day. For instance, carp prefer to hang out near trees hanging over water or near the lily pads. If you see any irregular movements in the lily pads, the carps could be present there. Note that light rays are angled so aim needs to be adjusted.

Will any bow work for bowfishing?

Yes, any type of archery bow will work even if it’s old. The most critical thing is how comfortable it feels in your hands, and that’s just about it. Therefore, don’t stress over the lack of sophisticated equipment. A kayak or canoe will work fine.

Which is safer a canoe or kayak?

When talking about bowfishing, stability is a key element. If you will be shooting while standing on the vessel, it’s important that you remain steadfast. You wont be able to aim well and get a good shot if the vessel is moving side to side. In that regard, a canoe will offer more stability than a kayak because it’s wider. But a kayak has better maneuverability.

Can you bow fish bass?

Unfortunately, people are not allowed to shoot game fish with an arrow, and bass happens to fall in that category. Game fish such as bass are only fished for the trophies and eating purposes. Bowfishing is only done for the rough fish like carp.

Do you need a License to Bowfish?

Yes, you need a license to Bow fish in many states. Besides the fact that you cannot Bowfish without this license, it’s not very special. You also don’t need any special gear and special reel because there are no regulations in that case.

Remember I earlier stated that it’s illegal to Bow fish many of the Game fish except the Hickory Shad, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish and Blue catfish. Each state has its own fishing regulations and for that reason, it’s important to check around before embarking on this mission.



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