How to Bowfish – Bowfishing Basics (Part One)

// November 3, 2015

Part 1 – Where to go Bowfishing

One of the most memorable experiences that I will never forget in the bowfishing realm was when bowfishing guide Marty McIntyre from GARQUEST Bowfishing Adventures and I went on a 24 hour, 4 lake bowfishing marathon in the spring of 2012. We started early one morning and ended up fishing on Lake Dunlap under a highway bridge later that night and into the wee hours of the next morning. We stumbled upon a bow-fisher’s paradise. There were more fish to shoot at than we had time to shoot at them! It was a target rich environment to say the least. In just under two hours we shot 12 long-nose gar in Marty’s custom bowfishing boat. We missed far more fish than we took in that night because we caught the lake during the gar’s spawning season. The biggest gar we took there now hangs on my office wall and he was 4 inches short of the lake record at the time. I will never forget that night. We were dead tired but you couldn’t wipe the grin from our faces!

Believe it or not, Bowfishing is quickly becoming popular nationwide. It combines the thrill of hunting with the skill of archery as well as the sport of fishing. WHAT MORE COULD A MAN WANT? AMIRIGHT!?

The excitement of multiple shot opportunities, several species of fish you can shoot, and the flexibility of day or nighttime bowfishing makes it an all around fun sport for everyone. Bowfishing is legal on most rivers and lakes; but is important to check your local wildlife regulations or call your local game warden to ensure you are following the rules on the rivers and lakes you are fishing.

In its basic form, bowfishing is shooting an arrow into water at a fish. The arrow has a string attached to it that is connected to a reel mounted on the bow. After the shot takes place, you reel the arrow back in with or without a fish on the arrow. As the old saying goes, “Some days: chicken, Other days: feathers.” Sometimes to hit what you’re aiming at and sometimes you just have a “learning” experience. Check out this Cajun Bowfishing Sucker Punch Bow Package.

One misconception about bowfishing is that boats are required to do it properly. This is FALSE. Some bowfishers get their start from the banks of lakes and rivers. And I can tell you from experience that bank bowfishing is a blast! The main fish that can be pursued in bowfishing are carp, buffalo, gar and other ‘rough fish’ that are typically not considered gamefish. Some exceptions to this rule apply in different states such as Louisiana where you can bowfish for Redfish and Catfish. Bowfishing is primarily done at night; but daytime bowfishing can be fun. Whether you are on a boat or on a bank, the main goal is to sneak up on fish in shallow waters.

Tactics: One of the main tactics to follow when bowfishing (day or night) is to follow the edges of the lake, river, or creek in the shallow area and troll slowly. Additionally, always be on the lookout for shot opportunities. Sometimes, as in the case of alligator gar in the spawning season, you can find fish rolling or sunning themselves out in the middle of the main lake or river areas in deep water.

The basics of bowfishing are simple. On a boat, similar to bass fishing, you are constantly on the move slowly trolling areas for fish. At night, most bowfishers use high pressure sodium lights or LED lights to see the water better. You can also use bow mounted flashlights to scan the water in areas the boat lights don’t reach. If bank fishing, you are slowly walking the edge of the water to find a fish to shoot. Here is another area where a bow mounted flashlight would come in handy (More on gear later in this series).

If you are new to bowfishing, or just need some pointers to get better at your game, hiring a bowfishing guide is an inexpensive way to get introduced or brush up on the sport and most guides will have all the equipment you need for the trip. Since bowfishing is becoming more and more popular, there is most likely a full-time or part-time bowfishing guide service in your area. Whatever lake or river on which you choose to go bowfishing or time of day or night you choose to go out, be safe and have fun out on the water!

Stay tuned for part two of this three part series.


One thought on “How to Bowfish – Bowfishing Basics (Part One)

  1. Cody says:

    Good article. If you or anyone else is interested more about the basics of bowfishing you can check out this article I wrote on the piece.

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