Bowfishing Without a Boat

Bowfishing is a fast-paced form of fishing that combines the challenge of fishing with the skills of archery. The sport continues to grow in popularity amongst outdoors men and women year after year. Bowfishing is a versatile sport and you can target a variety of species in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds, all the way to saltwater beaches or bays. No matter where you are at, bowfishing can be a great way to get out and enjoy a new activity on your local waters.

You only need a few basic pieces of equipment to start bowfishing. One of the most obvious pieces of gear you will need is a bow with all of the proper bowfishing accessories on it. But what about a boat? Do you need a boat in order to go bowfishing? As you can probably guess, the answer is no! You do not need a boat to get out and enjoy the sport of bowfishing. Some archer-anglers target fish right from the shore.

If you’re just getting into bowfishing and do not have access to a boat, or if you simply want a new challenge for your next outing, here are a few tips to help you when you are bowfishing without a boat!


Tips for Bowfishing without a Boat

Choose the Right Areas

When bowfishing, you will generally be hunting in clear, shallow water with depths around 3 to 5 feet deep. You will want to focus your efforts here, whether you are in a boat or not. This is because most species that archer-anglers target tend to hang out in shallow waters.

Shallow water will also give you an advantage when shooting the fish. Water is very dense and your arrow will lose much of its momentum and speed as it travels through the depths. The less water that your arrow has to travel through, the faster and more force it will have when hitting a target. 

When bowfishing from shore without a boat, you will want to explore all accessible places and find shorelines that give you access to these shallow, clear waters. And don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a perfect spot. Hunting down the fish is part of the bowfishing experience! 


Keep an Eye on the Weather

Weather plays a huge factor in the number of fish that you see, what they are doing, and how they behave. Most archer-anglers will try to hunt when the fish are most active, and on days where the weather contributes to this. The days that tend to produce the best results are when the water is relatively calm and visibility is high. Try to plan your bowfishing trips on days with clear skies and no wind. Water clarity and sunlight play a major role in bowfishing, as you must be able to spot the fish before you can try shooting them. Keeping an eye on the weather will help you identify the best times and days to head to the water where you can be most effective. 


Be as Stealthy as Possible

Despite “fishing” being part of its name, bowfishing is more like hunting. And your prey can be quite skittish so being stealthy will help you locate them without spooking them away. Whenever possible, try to be as quiet as you can when walking up to the water and keep a low profile. Try to keep your shadow off of the water, if possible. If you do happen to get busted by the fish, don’t give up. Stay still and be patient. The fish might return if they feel it’s safe. Another tactic you can try is chumming to attract fish to a spot you’ve chosen. Many states allow chumming the water with something like dog food or canned corn in order to bring the fish to you. Just check your local regulations and make sure this is legal on the body of water you choose. 


Don’t Forget Your Polarized Sunglasses 

Since bowfishing is a sight sport, a good pair of polarized sunglasses is essential for daytime outings. Polarized sunglasses will reduce glare so you can see fish much better in the water. There are tons of options out there with glass and plastic lens options and endless frame styles and colors. Polarized sunglasses vary in price from around $25 to over $250. Keep in mind that the quality will differ from one brand to another, so check reviews from other buyers to see which styles are most suitable for bowfishing and watersports. Although you can buy polarized sunglasses online, we highly recommend trying them on in person first. You want to make sure the frame fits your face well and is comfortable, otherwise, you won't want to wear them. 


Check Structure and Shady Areas Inaccessible to Boats

When bowfishing from shore, you might think that you're at a disadvantage than those with a boat. But boaters are limited to waters where their boat can go, and you can actually use this to your advantage. During the day, many fish will hide around different structures and shady areas. These places can be inaccessible for boats, especially bigger boats. From shore, you can slip into these tighter areas and find fish that others cannot. Locating these areas will not only give you some spots that others are not hunting, you’ll likely find good numbers of fish as they are naturally drawn to these areas to hide during the day!


The Bottom Line: You Don't Need a Boat To Go Bowfishing

While having a boat for bowfishing can be great, it’s definitely not necessary in order to go out and enjoy the sport. There are plenty of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and beaches with miles of shoreline that you can use for a successful day of bowfishing. Hopefully, by following some of these tips, you can enjoy some great bowfishing adventures without ever having to step foot on a boat!

What other advice do you have for beginners who are bowfishing from shore? Leave us a comment or tell us on Facebook!

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