What Is Bowfishing And How Do You Bow Fish

Do you know that shooting a fish with an arrow is not akin to catching a fish with a hook?

This article will provide you details of what is bowfishing, when it should be done, gears related to it, and tips and tricks on how to do it efficiently.

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1. What Is Bowfishing?

As the name suggests, bowfishing is related to hunting fish using a bow and arrow. It is a legal method to capture different fish species like green sunfish, bluegill, buffalo, drum, gar, and other variants.

The list does not include endangered fishes as listed by the Wildlife Code of Missouri. It is an exciting way to hunt the fishes with the use of conventional pole and line or set line method.

Bowfishing is a unique way to hunt fish. It doesn’t require any angling experience. Even the beginners can do it perfectly using the specialized archery equipment.

In this method, the fish is targeted, and then it is shot using a crossbow. The bow is affixed to the line so that the fish can be easily captured. The deeper the water, the more difficult it is to capture it. It is important to learn how to adjust the shot on the moving fish.

Normally bow fishing is done in shallow water like ponds, rivers, lakes, and flooded fields, etc. these waters are called ‘target-rich environments’ or plenty of targets to practice and plenty of fishes to be caught by the hunters. Bow fishing can be done in salty waters as well.

Bowfishing 101

1.1 When Should Bowfishing Be Done?

Bowfishing can be done during the day as well as at night, but many people prefer bow fishing at night when fishes are more visible and active.

In the olden times, the fishers used wood-burning fires in a basket to illuminate the space, and later it was replaced by lanterns and oil lamps. Today, halogen lights or LEDs are used.

Moonlight is not sufficient to locate and target the fish. The bowhunters need proper lighting arrangements. 

1.2 Why Should You Go For Bowfishing?

There are many benefits of indulging in this sport

  • To have fun with your friends
  • Get a taste adventure
  • Hone your athletic skills
  • If you like challenges, it is the best game.

2. How To Start Bowfishing?

Before starting bow fishing, you need to remember the following points:

2.1 Hone Your Bowfishing Skills

Learning and honing the skills takes time, and you need to devote extra effort to it. Most of the beginners can shoot only some fishes at a time.

However, with practice, it gets better. You should always target underwater fishes and adjust your bow and arrow accordingly. The deeper the fish, the lower should be the aim.

2.2 Knowledge Of The Game

It is important to gather knowledge of bow fishing to capture the target accurately. Think about the depth of water, make calculations, understand fish habitats, and learn about different species of fish before capturing them.

2.3 Gear

Many people are under the impression that bow fishing gear needs to be expensive, which is not true. You can buy an inexpensive bow and make a target and go for it.

Remember, bow fishing arrows should be bulky, and it should be able to enter deep into the water. It is better to buy an arrow made from fiberglass material because it is durable and can withstand pressure.

Fish might dart and move fast, so you don’t require release aids. You should learn from your instincts and wear a hand glove to protect your skin from damage.

2.4 Where Should You Go For Bowfishing

You can talk to the locals to get hands-on knowledge for the same, or you can check the state’s fish and wildlife agency website where bow fishing activity is carried on and where it is restricted.

Mostly, you can do it on ponds, rivers, but in some areas, it is restricted.

2.5 You May Not Succeed At First

At times, there are chances that you may lose the target but don’t stop aiming for it. Start with water bottles or soda cans in your garden, and once you gain perfection, you are ready to go for it.

Don’t forget to use polarized sunglasses as it will help you to do bow fishing with ease during day time.

2.6 No Particular Sights Are Needed

Instinctive shooting is the best as you won’t have time for aligning a sight pin as the target will not wait for a long time.

It may seem weird, but your intuitive ability will amaze you, and you will be able to do shooting accurately without any sight aids.

2.7 Shallow Or Flatboat

A trolling water boat or a simple boat will work well. For advanced bow fishing, an airboat or air fan is preferred.

2.8 Keep At It

The warm and gusty winds may break your confidence level, but the idea is to keep going at it.


3. Gear Used In Bowfishing

As compared to hunting, bow fishing doesn’t require specialized equipment. There are a few items that you need to carry.

3.1 Bow 

For bow fishing, you need a recurve or a compound bow.

3.1.1 Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are conventional bows to do bow fishing.


  • Light in weight 
  • Easy to maintain


  • They require more strength.
  • Less precise as compared to a compound bow

3.1.2 Compound Bows

these are more precise and require a bit of handling experience.


  • Accurate and precise shooting
  • It is powerful and is ideal for distance shooting


  • The bow is complicated to handle.
  • It is bulky and hard to carry during travel. 
How To Set Up a Bowfishing Bow

3.2 Reel

The reel can improve your bow fishing experience. There are three kinds of reels available in the market, each one having its own pros and cons.

  • Hand reel– It is the simplest type of reel available in the market. It is s one of the most sought-after reels among the traditional bow fishers. This type of reel works best with a recurve bow. But you should be cautious and don’t pull manually as it may hurt you.
  • Bottle reel– This type of reel is the most popular reel among bow fishers. One can rely on these reels as they make bow fishing easier as compared to hand reel. It uses heavy lines. Hence, you would not have any issues while pulling it.
  • Spin cast reel– This type of reel is the best reel made so far. Most professional anglers use it. Its popularity is because this reel is highly accurate. The drawback of this reel is its price. Another issue is cleaning and maintaining. Hence archers hesitate. This is the best option for competitive bow fishers.

3.3 Arrows

Just like bows, bow fishers’ arrows can be pre-made, or you can customize them to your own liking. Arrows are made of three components the shaft, the point, and the knock. The main item is the tip, and you will have to take care of it the most.

3.3.1 Arrow Material

 Fiberglass, Carbon, and Hybrid are the main. These are strong enough to penetrate fish inside the water. If you opt for a larger game, you have to choose carbon shafts. These are a bit expensive though. 

3.3.2 Arrow Points

The arrow points have barbed tips that ensure the arrow doesn’t leave its position when you are pulling the fish to the shore. It depends upon the type of fish that you are hunting.

For example, if you are dealing with hard-scaled fish, it is better to use a sharper, pointed tip that can easily go down into the skin of the fish.

3.4 Arrow Rest

The arrow rest is a type of material that is used to support the arrows. It would hold the arrow in a secure position irrespective of the movement of the bow in a horizontal or vertical position.

These arrow rests come in different variety, but more or less, they are of similar nature.

4. License For Bowfishing

Generally, there is no such license required for bow fishing But, if you are being involved in a commercial activity, then only one has to take permissions from the fisheries department.

Before you begin this activity, it is important to check the background state and local laws. Bowfishing in India is legal. The age for a bowfishing license is 16 years, and in some states, it is 15 years.

After a year, your fishing license will expire. You have to get it renewed. There are different types of licenses like one year license, five days license, lifetime license, non-resident license, multi-year license.  

5. Tips And Techniques For Bowfishing

Certain tips and tricks will make the game of bow-fishing fun, safe and will let you capture more fish.

5.1 Buy Good Sunglasses

If you are planning to do bow-fishing during the daytime, ensure that you buy polarized sunglasses, but not the cheap one, as you may end up breaking them.

Before you buy them, compare them from different shops and try different pairs. A well-polarized sun-glass has a hologram embedded on it that ensures quality and durability.

You can buy tinted sun-glass to ensure that light is not reflected and refracted, causing you a glare. It is simple if you are not able to see the fish, you won’t be able to capture it.

5.2 Select Tip According To The Fish

Whenever you are buying an arrow tip, ensure it is according to the fish species that you are targeting. The tip with a small prong is not ideal for soft fish as they will rip out easily.

A flimsy blade will also break due to its larger size and durable scales. It is ideal to buy 2-3 prongs that have spring and is sturdy and can hold large carp with tougher scales.

You may experiment with different tips before deciding which works for you.

5.3 Sharpen Your Tips

The bowfishing tips should be sharp. When you are shooting for fish in shallow or rocky areas, the tips will loosen its sharpness.

When the tip becomes dull, it makes large holes, which in turn loosen the grip, and fish will slip from the arrow. Points can be easily replaced. Or you can use some equipment like a grinder to sharpen the edges.

5.4 Don’t Sit Back And Relax

When it comes to the bowfishing game, you should take a plunge instantly without overthinking. If you become over-cautious, you will miss out on larger opportunities for shooting in creeks and coves.

These are the places of water that hold an immense amount of fishes, and there are chances that you might catch the biggest fish from there. These spots can’t be easily accessed by the boats.

There are other alternatives for boats that you can experiment with paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, etc. These are the best boats when it comes to the bow-fishing.

These boats will help you get out of your comfort zone and let you catch many fishes without spending a lot of money.

Bowfishing Tips for Beginners – How to Bowfish for Asian Carp

5.5 Ask Your Friend To Come Along

Big fishes like carp need the help of more than one person to capture them. It is better to travel in groups or at least bring one friend who can help you to haul a big catch or help you to capture the missed shot.

You will have fun shooting in this way. Carp can be caught easily, as they move slowly in water, and half of their body is exposed to the water surface. With this simple tip, you can easily catch a big fish.

5.6 Consider Different Areas For Bowfishing

Always search for different areas for bow-fishing. Conduct your own research or take maps to locate the fishes.

The DNR website of your state provides you maps where bow-fishing is legal and where you can find them. If you drive in an area with public waters, you can stop there and learn about different species of fish.

For example, sucker fishes prefer running and clear waters, while carp fishes swim in muddy water, buffalo, and gar fishes reside in river creeks.

Experiment with different areas, and don’t hesitate to explore new options.

5.7 Be Sure To Check Local Rules

Bow-fishing can be done day and night, in shallow or docks or on any boat depending upon your requirements. But before you start bowfishing, it is better to check after and before hours.

You can check the prohibited areas and research the rules before visiting the area.

5.8 Shooting Practice

If you are having beat gear with you, but you are not able to hit the target or get it missed every time, then there is no use of gear, and you will not be able to kill the fish.

Always keep on practicing for shooting. The more time you spend in water to practice, the sharper you become. 

5.9 Safety

Bowfishing is a quick action sport. Hence, an immediate response is needed. Immediate attention is needed, and for this safety, the slide is needed to prevent any tangles. Safety slide is an important feature for every bow fisher.

There may be many more points on this, but the conclusion is that bring proper gear for desired results.

Bowfishing tip on shooting without an arrow slider BE SAFE see tip for bow fishing arrow

5.10 Have Fun

Bowfishing is a recreational activity, and it can be learned by anyone easily. In the process of capturing and hauling, don’t forget to experiment and have fun.

If you constantly fish from a particular area, the fish will not be spotted there, and you have to explore different fishing areas. Even if you are hunting for rough fish, don’t capture more than you can dispose of.

It is important to know having too many fishes in a boat sink faster than you might think. Rough fish should be disposed of responsibly and should not be placed on the bank.

6. Bowfishing In The USA

Now that you have understood the process of bowfishing, it’s time to stand up and start doing it. Many places in the USA can make your experience fun-filled.

Trinity River, Texas, Mississippi river, Florid gulf coast, Lake Michigan, are some places where you will find bundles of fishes.

The Missouri River is the longest river that stretches from Montana to the Mississippi river in St. Louis. Here, you can find many fishing opportunities. Here, you can hunt for carp, gar, and paddlefish easily.


Bowfishing is the best way to partake in fishing activities. It provides the angler fun experience and lets them learn different things.

There are many places to enjoy this adventurous activity in the USA. But before seeking them out, it is important to learn about the local laws.


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