Bowfishing: It’s not just a sport, for some people it’s a lifestyle. Bowfishing has steadily grown in popularity over the last two decades. Unfortunately, with popularity also comes criticism. The sport has faced scrutiny by many who have made uneducated assumptions about what we do. It has also encountered criticism that is warranted by some of our actions.
We are going to explore those reasons and provide some talking points for you to use when being confronted by critics of the sport. Also, we discuss how all archer anglers can do our part to exemplify good sportsmanship while enjoying the sport of bowfishing.
The critics of bowfishing sometimes point out the brutality of the sport. The thought that we cannot practice catch and release is a point of conflict (more on that later), but also that we kill the fish or force them to suffer when we shoot them.
Bowfishing is no more brutal than traditional fishing when you keep the fish. You will end up cleaning the fish, and if that fish hasn’t died in your bucket, you put a knife through it while it is alive.
There is a misconception that the fish we shoot when bowfishing are thrown away and never eaten. This can be seen as wasteful and unethical. This isn’t always the case, many times the fish are eaten. There is also good reason that some fish are not eaten.
This isn’t true of all species that are taken when bowfishing. There are many species of fish that are legal to bowfish and able to be eaten. When those fish are caught, they are typically eaten.
Those fish that are not eaten are typically invasive species where hunting them helps the ecosystem. They are hard to prepare, not good to eat, and the DNR might down right tell you not too. In our home state of Michigan, the DNR prepared an “Eat safe fish guide” to help identify which fish you can eat and the maximum amount you should eat to avoid ingesting too many chemicals. The most popular fish to shoot here (Common Carp) is labeled as “Do not eat” in most bodies of water, as they eat everything in their path, even if it is full of chemicals.
Eat the fish that are edible and not invasive. Get the deep fryer ready, invite some friends over and have a fish fry.
We will occasionally hear complaints about the loud nature of the sport. We like to play music, cheer when we hit something (or miss), we are constantly chasing and shooting at fish and our generators can be heard across the lake. This can agitate the area for others who are fishing with rods and reels.
Our sport is exciting; we enjoy the thrill of the chase. We joined the sport because of the action and the challenge of shooting into water.
Find a quieter generator... this is for others in your area as well as yourself. A loud generator isn’t just a pain for others on the lake, it’s also a pain for the people on the boat.
Be considerate of others around you. If it’s late at night and you are in canals near houses, don’t crank the music.
A good rule of thumb to follow: don’t ruin anyone else’s outdoor experience. Enjoy yourself but be considerate of others.
When bowfishing at night, we use lights on the boat that shine into the water to light up our shooting area. These lights can sometimes light up areas that are not in the water. We sometimes hear complaints from people who live on the shore and say the lights shine right into their houses.
When bowfishing at night, we are typically not intentionally shining lights at houses. When this happens, we are typically chasing fish and our lights go in directions we don’t realize. If this happens, please try to get our attention and kindly let us know that we are disturbing you.
Follow the same rule as above. Be considerate of others around you. If you notice you are accidentally lighting up a whole house at 2 a.m., consider making adjustments to your lights and/or your location.
When someone who doesn’t bowfish watches you roll by slowly with a barrel full of fish, they start making assumptions about what you are doing. They might assume you are taking all the fish from the lake and ruining the fishing for everyone else.
We sometimes do fill barrels of fish, but those barrels are typically filled with invasive species. If barrels of invasive fish are not constantly removed from the bodies of water, they would most likely overtake the aquatic environment. Bowfishing is one of the most effective ways to involve the public in the control and cleanup of this invasive species problem.
The typical target when bowfishing is invasive species that overtake the aquatic environment. By hunting these species, we are improving the game fish environment for everyone. Those who fish these species with rods and reels shouldn’t be concerned about overfishing because invasive species spread so fast, it has been a losing battle trying to eliminate them from the ecosystems they have invaded.
Consider what fish you are targeting. If they are popular game fish in your area, and not invasive, don’t overfish. They may be legal to shoot, but bowfishing in moderation keeps them around for you and others to catch later.
It can be easy for people who only fish with rods and reels to believe their rules apply to bowfishing as well. They assume that catch and release is a necessary aspect of fishing, as you sometimes catch the wrong species or too small of a fish. This isn’t the case with bowfishing for a multitude of reasons, but more specifically because of the way that we fish and the species we target.
Catch and release is important when you don’t control when you catch. When fishing in the traditional fashion, you can’t decide which fish take the bait. When bowfishing, we decide what to shoot, which means we control what we catch. We can see which species we are shooting and their size.
It is possible for the wrong fish to be taken when bowfishing, but it is rare. Experienced archer anglers know what they are shooting at and seldom shoot the wrong species of fish.
There are some game fish that are legal to shoot. Check your local rules to find out which fish are legal to shoot and share that with anyone who is challenging the legality of your fishing.
While bowfishing, be sure of what you are shooting at.
There have been many complaints about archer anglers leaving their fish on the docks, the loading areas, and the banks. This quickly becomes a smelly eyesore and can even draw other nuisance species.
Tell them they are absolutely………right. We shouldn’t be leaving a mess that ruins others experience with the outdoors.
Find a good way to dispose of the fish if you can. The fish might not be edible but find a good way to still utilize them (think fertilizer). Follow Loxley to find out more about what to do with fish you won’t eat, and maybe even find out how you might be able to eat them.
If you can think of anything else that makes people not like bowfishing, comment below. Tell us how we can address the critics as well as how we can be better sportsman.
Bowfishing is a great way to spend quality time with your bow each summer. It’s also a good workout and fun way to spend time with your friends. Before heading to the lake or river with hopes of filling your boat with carp, ask yourself: Just what will you do with all those dead fish? Craft a plan to use the fish you shoot productively.
Legal fish species vary depending on where you are in the country. Some of the most common freshwater fish shot are bighead carp, common carp, grass carp, catfish, buffalo and several varieties of gar, including the massive alligator gar. Many of these fall under the category of rough (or trash) fish. Rough fish are those fish which fall outside of the category of sport fish. They are species not commonly eaten and are often invasive species. Because they are not typically targeted by fishermen, bowfishing is a very good means of population control and removal of these often undesirable fish.
To help you get started, we have compiled a quick list of every US state and whether or not bowfishing is legal, some of the rules, and what you should be aware of. We've also included links to each state's fish and game or department of natural resources website for more information. So let’s get started!
The needs of every archer-angler are different, which means every boat those archer-anglers build for bowfishing is going to be different. One particularly hot topic amongst bowfisherman is lights. This article is a quick guide to finding your perfect light setup.
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