Bows and Arrows Make Fishing
Even More Fun! Bows and Arrows Make Fishing Even More Fun!

Do you like fishing? You know, sitting on a dock, soaking a worm and waiting for a bite. The thought conjures fond memories.

Have you considered combining fishing and archery for summer fun? Chances are, a nearby body of water is open to bowfishing, which takes fishing to a new level. Instead of waiting for fish to bite, bowfishermen actively hunt the fish.

Bowfishing is also good for the environment. Bowfishermen target rough fish, some of which are harmful invasive species. Invasive species are non-native fish that were accidentally or intentionally introduced into our waters . Invasive species aren’t isolated problems. They’re found in waters everywhere.

Regulations set by each state’s fish-and-wildlife agency typically limit bowfishermen to “rough” fish and invasive species, like gar, rays, carp and suckers. Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

Aquatic ecosystems feature living organisms that create symbiotic and intertwined relationships to maintain nature’s balance. Introducing exotic species into natural ecosystems throws off their delicate balance. In fact, sudden changes can push parts of an ecosystem into extinction.

Carp are one of North America’s most common invasive species. Several species of carp from Asia and Europe now swim in lakes and rivers throughout the continent. Carp are bottom-feeding fish that stir up mud, destroy vegetation, degrade water quality, and hamper spawning by native fish species. They have few natural predators and reproduce rapidly. Therefore, carp often overpopulate waters after they’re released.

Another destructive invasive species is the snakehead fish. These creepy, toothy fish are voracious predators. They eat native fish species and compete with native predatory fish for food. Snakeheads are mainly found in warm freshwater lakes and waterways in Florida and mid-Atlantic states. Snakeheads reproduce quickly and can decimate waters they invade.

Bowfishermen arrow these harmful exotics to reduce their populations. By harvesting invasive species, bowfishermen help maintain balanced aquatic ecosystems.

Fishing points, one solid-fiberglass fishing arrow, and a spincast reel or bottle reel complete your bowfishing kit. These items are usually sold together, and are designed specifically for bowfishing. Photo Credit: Paul Sherar

How does bowfishing work?

Bowfishermen use special fishing arrows and a bowfishing reel. These arrows are made of fiberglass and are heavier than standard arrows. Their heavy weight helps penetrate the depths to strike fish well below the surface. Bowfishing arrows also carry barbed points, so they don’t pull out easily. The arrows connect to a bowfishing line, which connects to a bowfishing reel so the archer can retrieve the fish.

Bowfishing reels often resemble standard fishing reels. They mount to a bow’s stabilizer bushing or its sight mounts. The reels also allow bowfishermen to retrieve their arrows when they miss.

Before trying this fun, fast-paced sport, you might need a fishing license from your state’s fish and wildlife agency. Contact the agency for information on bowfishing laws and licensing requirements. Click here for a comprehensive list of these state agencies. is also an excellent online resource for information on bowfishing gear and techniques. Of course, archery shops are your best resource on bowfishing gear and tips for nearby places to bowfish.

Find a store near you.