You might have a few tournament wins under your belt now but everyone starts out as a newbie, and bowfishing beginners have lots of questions about the sport.
This blog post covers questions all bowfishing beginners ask. Some are questions that we've received ourselves from people who are curious why we'd spend all night stalking carp while trying to avoid hordes of mosquitoes. Others are questions about bowfishing that get Googled often. Either way, we're here to help teach anyone who wants to learn about becoming an archer-angler!
What is bowfishing?
Bowfishing is a popular pastime that combines both fishing and bowhunting. The basic premise is simple: you spot a fish in shallow water and approach until you're close enough for a shot. You use special bowfishing arrows for the fish, and then haul or reel your prey in with a line that is attached to the arrow.
Where can I go bowfishing? Do I need a boat?
There are plenty of bowfishing opportunities around the country. They can be found in rivers, ponds, lakes, streams, and coastal saltwater. You can either hunt and shoot from shore, wade in the water, or use a boat. Bowfishing generally only requires a few extra pieces of gear that a lot of people already have, and you can usually convert a hunting bow, if you already own one that you don't use, into a bowfishing rig.
When is the best time to go bowfishing? And when does the bowfishing season start?
You might be surprised to find out that in many places, bowfishing can be enjoyed year-round! There are a reported 35 different states that allow bowfishing any time of the year. Although state laws and regulations are constantly changing and evolving, as of this writing, states like Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky, and many others allow you to go bowfishing whenever you want. You can find out when bowfishing season is open for a specific state by visiting its Department of Natural Resources website.
Do I need a fishing or hunting license to go bowfishing?
Yes. While bowfishing seasons vary, most states have similar regulations. The first thing that you must do is obtain a fishing license. Some states differentiate between freshwater and saltwater (or have all water license packages) so make sure that you obtain the correct permit. After getting your fishing license, you may also have to purchase an additional stamp for bowfishing, depending on the state. Again, if you have any questions about local regulations, check with your state's Department of Natural Resources. Each state's website typically provides the answers you need or contact information if you have additional questions.
What gear do I need to go bowfishing?
After you've got your fishing license, you must make sure that you have the proper, legal equipment. Fortunately, you don't need much gear to go bowfishing. The basics are: a bow, bowfishing arrows, an arrow rest, line, and a reel. Learn more about essential bowfishing gear here. Many states, like Texas, are very lenient on the equipment that you are using, while other states may have more restrictions (for example, you might only be able to bowfish with certain types of bows). Make sure that your rig is legal and that it is properly set up for the species of fish that you intend to pursue.
What fish can I target when bowfishing?
Speaking of species, now is the time to consider what fish species you are going to pursue and where to do it. Bowfishing is generally legal for non-game fish species such as carp, gar, buffalo, mullet, and sheepshead. Most game fish are not legal for bowfishing, so ensure that you carefully read the state and local regulations where you intend to go bowfishing.
In addition to the fish species, some states and areas will have minimum lengths or daily bag limits, even for non-game fish. For example, in Texas, alligator gar has a limit of one per day. There are also portions of areas that are prohibited to bowfishing during the spawning season. Again, carefully read and study the state and local regulations on where you intend to fish and for the species you are after.
How do you find a place to go bowfishing?
Some states will have certain waters that allow bowfishing, while other areas may not. In addition to state laws, other government agencies may have some rules that apply to bowfishing on properties that they own or manage. When bowfishing within city limits or at any type of park, it is a good idea to check first with local authorities if bowfishing is allowed and when the season dates are.
When can I go bowfishing? Are there seasons?
Luckily, with the rise in popularity of bowfishing and the explosion of growth of invasive fish species, more and more states are implementing longer bowfishing seasons and bigger bag limits. While late spring and summer have always been the most popular times for bowfishing, states are realizing that the longer the season, the more people can enjoy this popular hobby which means more fishing licenses sold and more resources for their programs. So while you can still enjoy heading out to the water and going bowfishing during the spring and summer when most of your target fish are heading to the shallow water (which makes seeing and shooting them much easier), you can also go out bowfishing whenever you want to!
Being able to go bowfishing, regardless of the time of year with a year-long season, has plenty of advantages. You can always stay on top of where the fish are at and have plenty of practice time year-round. For those that enter bowfishing competitions, this can help to keep you sharp and ready for when the competitions roll around in the spring and summer. Bowfishing year-round will also help to better control the invasive fish species. This will lead to better management and higher numbers of popular sport fishing species that have to compete with the invasive bow fishing species.
Research your state's bowfishing regulations and get out there
Every state is very different, so it's important to thoroughly check and research your state to find out the bowfishing seasons and applicable rules and regulations that you may need to know. Once you've done your research and secured your license, grab your gear and get out there! There are plenty of bowfishing opportunities awaiting you.