Don’t Just Fish, BOW Fish!  Don’t Just Fish, BOW Fish! 

Bowfishing has been growing in popularity in recent years as more beginning archers look for fun shooting opportunities for spring and summer. As with almost everything in archery, you can get into bowfishing at nearly any price point you choose. For basic equipment, some archers simply buy a kit that includes:

  1. One solid-fiberglass fishing arrow
  2. Fishing points
  3. A spool with heavy Dacron line
  4. An arrow rest

Some people who bowfish transfer all the equipment back and forth to their regular hunting bow, or buy a new bow for hunting and put their bowfishing gear on the old bow. Regardless of what you choose to do, any archery shop can guide you into the right product whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade your equipment.

Carp 101

Various species of carp are the most commonly targeted fish. Carp aren’t native to North America. They were brought over from Europe in the 1800s and released across much of the continent.

Most archers who bowfish, target Carp. Photo: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Most archers who bowfish, target Carp. Photo: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Because carp are destructive rough fish that reproduce readily almost everywhere they’re found, archers who bowfish typically shoot all they can, often using the fish as fertilizer for gardens and flower beds. Some also are smoked, canned or added to fish stew. About the only requirement is that those who bowfish take home everything they catch.

Katniss, Get Your Chacos (And a Kayak)

Bowfishing provides multiple shooting opportunities. For those archers interested in expanding their interest and archery skill into an outdoor adventure, it’s an ideal stepping stone between target archery and bowhunting. No two shots are the ever the same in bowfishing, and there’s usually much more action than in bowhunting. When bowhunting deer, elk or bears, bowhunters can go weeks – or several hunting seasons – between shots.

It’s also accessible. Bowfishing can be done from piers, boats (this includes air boats, motor boats, Jon boats, canoes or kayaks) or shorelines, and you’re seldom restricted to one small area like you are when bowhunting deer from a tree stand or turkeys from a ground blind. If you see carp or gar nearby, you can stalk closer to try intercepting them. Those experiences also help prepare you for stalking or setting up on deer, elk or other game animals.

Think You Could Be Great at This Sport? Compete.

Bowfishing tournaments feature fun competition for friends and family members. Most offer a purse pooled from entry fees, and pay it out to the top teams, which usually consist of two or three archers. Bigger tournaments charge about $100 per boat, which works out to $75 per team for the team competition and $25 for the individual big-fish pot. They often compete for the largest fish arrowed, or for the heaviest stringer of five carp.

Photo: Marty Hughes, via

Photo: Marty Hughes, via

Stealth Under the Cover of Darkness

More people who bowfish are also discovering that summer’s hottest bowfishing action occurs at night under large lights rigged on their boats. As a result, specially designed bowfishing lights are gaining popularity, as are lighted nocks, which help archers see the shot and track the fish once it’s hit.

Gators Too?!

Carp and other rough fish like gar and buffalo make for exciting bowfishing, but perhaps the ultimate in big-game bowfishing is an alligator hunt in Florida. States like Georgia and South Carolina also allow bowfishing for ’gators, but no state offers more alligator tags each year than Florida. This requires even more specialized equipment, however, so it’s probably best to hire a guide or hunt with an experienced friend before taking on an alligator.

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