Bowfishing is exactly what it sounds like – fishing with a bow or a crossbow.  This sport is becoming more and more popular these days among men and women.  A barbed arrow is used to shoot the fish.  The arrow is attached to a special line to a reel that is mounted on a bow. Freshwater fish like paddlefish, grass carp, bighead carp, and alligator gar are most commonly sought after when bow fishing.  Sharks and rays are often chased in saltwater.

Bowfishing Equipment

Specialized equipment is needed for bow fishing, but that does not mean a big expense. This is what you will need to get started:


bowfishingBows for bow fishing range from very simple to technologically advanced.  A traditional bow can work just fine and it is inexpensive.  However, if you want to fully enjoy the experience, it is better to go for specialized bows. Bowfishing bows are designed to take care of all the little nuances that you may not consider when you just begin with bow fishing. They are lightweight so that you don’t get tired too fast when you stalk your prey, they also often come equipped with reels so that you don’t have to buy them separately.

Lines and Arrows

Bowfishing lines are frequently made out of braided nylon, Spectra or Dacron with bright colors like neon orange, white and lime green.  Arrows for this recreational sport are stronger and heavier than the arrows used for other types of archery.  Carbon fiber, carbon fiber reinforced fiberglass and solid aluminum is used to make these arrows.


There are three types of bowfishing reels that can be used – spin cast, retriever, or hand-wrap which is the simplest reel.  With the hand-wrap reel, a line is wrapped around a circular spool by hand and then placed into a line holding slot. The line pulls free from the line holder and feeds off the spool when the arrow is shot.  The bow fisher catches the fish by pulling the line in with a hand over hand motion.  A “bottle” holds the line in place on a retriever reel.  When the arrow is shot the line goes out until the line runs out or until the bow fisher pushes a stopping device.  This helps keep the fish from traveling out too far.  Retriever reels are used for larger game like alligators and sharks.  The spin cast reel tries to fix the problem of backlash in bait cast designs – it lessens snares and line twists.


One of the most important things in bow fishing is a good visual.  Polarized sunglasses are extremely useful for spotting fish in the water, especially on a sunny day.  These glasses help lessen the glare on top of the water so that you can see what is below the surface. Polarized glasses come in different lenses, colors, and tints, and they also come as clip-ons.


The type of boat you use for bow fishing is also important.  Some people prefer to fish from the shore but most people bow fish in a boat.  Boats that are flat bottom like canoes should be used in low water areas because they have less draw and are not good in open water.  The larger boats can fit a number of hunters so these boats are often customized just for bow fishing.  Features on some of the larger boats include generators for fishing at night, raised shooting platforms, and fan propulsion for shallow water.


Bowfishing Tactics

Some basic steps for bow fishing are to draw your bow, wait until the fish is in a favorable position, adjust your line of sight, and let the arrow go smoothly.  But, like any other sport, this takes practice, practice, and more practice. Some professionals suggest “trash fishing” which is aiming for targets like old aluminum cans and plastic bottles underwater.  This is also a way to clean up the environment!

One of the easiest shots to take is when a fish is swimming away from you or directly underneath you.  If you stand on a large rock in shallow water you are higher up and can see better.  Moving from rock to rock makes the fish move if they are not active.  You can also wade in the water if you don’t mind getting wet and that will get you closer to the fish.

Aiming is the key to catching fish.  It is often difficult to aim in the water because the movement of the water distorts the target and creates an illusion.  It is suggested that you always aim much lower to make up for the illusion.

Extreme Bowfishing

In ancient times bow fishing was used for survival, but it has now become a growing sport which is now being promoted on social media. There is also a Bowfishing Association of America if you would like to become a member of a larger community and exchange ideas and experiences.

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