If you have any friends who go bowfishing, you probably know it's a fun, fast-paced sport. But did you know that bowfishing is also good for the environment? It might seem counterproductive to think about killing fish in order to help the environment, but bow fishermen actually play an important role in preserving natural fisheries. Keep reading to learn how bowfishing helps the environment.
Controlling Invasive Fish Species
In general, bowfishing entails shooting fish that are mostly considered undesirable. This usually means fish species such as carp, gar, freshwater drum, catfish, and suckers. Gar and alligator gar are native fish species, so the positive effects on the environment are not as much as if you target something like the local carp species.
Carp are largely considered to be one of the most destructive fish species to the ecosystem in the United States, and they are well known to cause a lot of harm to native fish populations by competing for food and other resources. Because of how destructive they are, there are usually no limits on these fish.
When you go bowfishing for a species like a carp, you are doing your part to help lessen the impact that they have on the environment. There are many bow fishermen that can easily load up an entire truckload of carp in a single bowfishing trip. Not only does this have a positive impact on the ecosystem, but archer-anglers also have fun while doing it!
How Carp and Other Species Hurt the Ecosystem
As we mentioned, carp are a non-native species that was introduced to the United States. They were first brought to US waters in the 1880s, and it turned out to be a large mistake as their numbers have absolutely exploded since then. For example, it is not uncommon to see a group of bow fishermen shoot hundreds or even thousands of pounds of carp on a night outing, and this literally doesn't even put a dent in the local carp problem. This helps illustrate just how serious this problem is.
Carp have spread across the entire country, and these days there are very few areas with warmer waters where these fish cannot be found. Unfortunately, once carp are introduced to a new area, they are almost impossible to eliminate completely.
Carp can negatively impact the environment by reducing water quality, damaging river banks, causing algae blooms, and eating all of the local aquatic vegetation that other fish rely on for food and shelter. Carp can very quickly take over an entire ecosystem in a short amount of time. Invasive carp have decimated other fish populations and haven even caused some species to go extinct in areas.
Bow fishermen play a huge role in helping to control the populations of invasive fish like carp, and can usually catch, shoot, or kill as many as they want. And while not everyone eats or likes the taste of carp, simply extracting them out of the water is very beneficial to the ecosystem and overtime, archer-anglers can help control carp populations.
Environmental Benefits of Bowfishing
Bowfishing helps create healthier lakes, rivers, and ponds because it helps reduce the numbers of destructive fish that can negatively impact them such as the common carp, grass carp buffalo, and gar. In addition to the things we listed earlier, some of these fish also impact the environment by competing with game fish and destroying their spawning beds.
By reducing the water quality, carp and other invasive species can also harm other organisms as well. For example, poor water quality can kill off species like native freshwater mussels. In turn, any other animals that rely on freshwater mussels will also be negatively impacted. The same could be said for almost any species in a certain area, as even the slightest imbalance in the ecosystem can cause stress and death in certain species of organisms, especially microorganisms. If a species like a carp is allowed to take over a waterway, they can even damage the local fish populations to the point of no return.
Luckily we have bow fishermen to thank for helping to keep these problems under control. Culling destructive fish will contribute to the overall health of water systems in the long term. Many traditional anglers might look down upon bow fishermen, but in fact, they should be thanking them for helping preserve game species numbers.
Of course, not all fish that bow fishermen target are invasive. For example, alligator gar has become a very popular bowfishing target, but they generally do not do any harm to the local environment. In fact, they actually help to control the spread of invasive species like carp by using them as a food source. This is why many areas will have a daily limit of gar in order to keep their populations healthy.
Besides this, the money generated from things like fishing licenses, boat permits, and even taxes on fishing equipment can further be used to preserve environments and fund conservation efforts. Without these funds, all anglers could have much fewer waters to find fish in, and fish populations could suffer. The last thing we want is fewer fish to chase after, so why not support any way that helps, bowfishing included?
The Bottom Line: Bowfishing Helps the Environment and It's Fun, Too
Many people would argue that killing fish is not healthy for the environment. In most situations, they would be absolutely right. However, when it comes to the majority of the fish that are the primary targets for bowfishing, this is not the case! Taking these invasive and non-native fish species out of the ecosystem helps the overall health and longevity of that environment. Even if the fish are not eaten or used, the simple act of removing them helps to protect and preserve so much more in the long run that it is well worth the effort. Not to mention that bowfishing is a ton of fun as well!