Give Bowfishing a Try

News & Tips: Give Bowfishing a Try

In most parts of the north, winter's frigid temperatures aren't conducive to spending a lot of time afield with your traditional bow.

GiveBowfishingTry AMSBowfishingKit
A bowfishing reel combo kit can help get you started in the sport of bowfishing.

It's not that the gear can't take it. It's more like frozen fingers don't make for good releases. And some of us aren't comfortable with the strange noises our bows make in the extreme cold either.

With that in mind, we shoot at indoor ranges or get out on good days for a little backyard practice. Between those sessions, we dream of the opportunities that spring will bring.

There is certainly stump shooting and later turkey hunting, but one opportunity that is often overlooked is bowfishing.

In my mind, bowfishing is an exciting cross between target shooting and hunting. Go to the right place, such as a creek with a sucker run or a marsh where carp are gathering, and there are countless targets of opportunity.

That's not to say that stealth is not required. Fish, especially after they've been shot at a few times, can get very spooky too. Time avoiding avian predators like herons and osprey also make them especially leery of shadows and quick movement.

Stealth and stalking aside, bowfishing is mostly a shooting game that requires special adaptations to your recurve or longbow. At the most basic level, a couple of bowfishing arrows with proper bowfishing points, as well as a spool that can be attached to your bow and enough line are all that's needed. But, as with all sports, you can spend more and get higher grade gear that includes bowfishing reels and arrow rests.

Serious carp and sucker chasers use relatively lightweight bows because you tend to shoot an awful lot during an outing and fish tend to be close — 35 pounds is typically considered a good weight. I'm not that into it die-hard, however, so I use my 50-pound longbow.

When shooting at fish, refraction must be taken into account. For most close up shots the archer should aim low. The closer the fish is to your feet, the closer the point of aim to it. This is something the bowfisher will eventually figure out. Just bear in mind that most missed arrows pass over fish.

Traditional shooters do well with this sport because they are used to not using sights, which means they are quicker to shoot. And, typically, the archer must get off arrows quickly as fish pass by.

Check your regulations. In Ontario, where I live, a fishing license is required to bowfish and we're only allowed to arrow carp, white sucker and bowfin for limited seasons. Your jurisdiction probably has different regulations; so make sure you know them.

What you do with the fish is up to you and is possibly influenced by your state or provincial regulations. Some use them for fertilizer. I plan on canning a few suckers this spring as they can be delicious when processed in this manner.

In any case, if you're dreaming of spring and all that it brings, consider bowfishing too. It's a whole lot of fun.

Find more information about bowfishing at Bass Pro 1Source and shop for bowfishing gear at