Bowfishing is a hunting method that goes back thousands of years and has been popular in many different cultures. Today, bowfishing is a popular sport combining the best of both the fishing and bowhunting worlds.
There are also environmental benefits such as healthier lakes and reservoirs because bowfishing helps reduce the rough fish populations that degrade water quality and complete with spawing game fish by destroying spawning beds. Bowfishing is an effective way to control populations of invasive species such as Asian carp.
Thinking of getting started in bowfishing? Here is what you need to know.
Be Sure Your Bow is Tuned
Bowfishing takes practice, but you aren’t learning a skill if your bow isn’t tuned properly. One way to check for tuning is to test your bow on the water as you would with paper, shoot straight into the water and adjust until you see little to no splash.
Don’t handicap yourself with the wrong equipment. A low poundage bowfishing recurve bow is a good option for beginners. A 25- to 30-pound bow will be strong enough to take out a target but not so strong that it will go completely through the fish. There are also modern compound bows pre-rigged with everything your need to bowfish like the Archenemy Depth Charge Bowfishing Package. This setup comes ready for action righ out of the box.
Quick-release arrowheads, like this Muzzy Quick-Release Fish Head, allow for easy retrieval from the fish or target and will save you a lot of hassle when it comes time to take the arrow out of the fish.
Polarized glassesPolarized glasses will help reduce glare from the water’s surface so you can have a better view of the fish below. These glasses have a wide range of prices, but be sure you find a pair that fit you right, as you will be looking down often and don’t want your glasses falling into the water.
For starters, you may want to start on the more entry-level end of equipment until you know you are going to be a serious bowfisherman. Recurve bow, reel and a couple fish arrows will usually cost from $300 to $400.
I got my gear … now what?
Getting the release angle right when bowfishing will be the most difficult part, and will take lots of practice. Because of light refraction and the surface tension of the water, your aim and arrow path will be different than bowhunting on land.
The best practice is done in real-life hunting; however, if you don’t have easy access to a good bowfishing lake or pond, you can set up targets for practice. Take a 2-liter bottle, fill it with water and anchor it down in about 3 feet of water to use it as a target. Be sure to shoot from various angles to learn how light refraction will change the appearance of the target from different locations.
Wade bowfishing is a fun way to start your real fishing challenge. The best wade bowfishing is done in the spring when fish are spawning, but you can find good fishing in the summer and fall as well.
What you are fishing for should determine where you are fishing. But in general, you will want around 3 feet of clear, still water like a flooded marsh area with tall grass. Carp, which tend to live in these areas, are a popular bowfishing target.
Night bowfishing, the kind done in most pro tournaments, is going to set you back a few thousand dollars to get the boat, lights and generators you need. However, if you have the right equipment, you will find that night bowfishing will be your most productive and the most exciting.
Take on the challenge of bowfishing and you’ll love it. It is also a great sport for children who may not enjoy the more sit-and-wait fishing or the sit-and-wait-and-be-quiet land bowhunting.
Bowfishing Tips From 2013 U.S. Open Tournament