As more and more people begin taking an interest in bowfishing, there are many commonly asked questions that arise. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions; keep in mind that many of these answers can be found in the fishing regulations that your state’s Department of Natural Resources has created. This is by no means an exhaustive list of FAQ’s, so if you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to leave it in the comments below and we’ll do our bestto answer it!
Do I need a special license to go bowfishing?
In many states, a regular fishing license is all you need to go bowfishing. However, you should check your state’s regulations before going out.
Can I shoot any fish I see in the water?
The answer to this question is almost certainly no, but again – check your state’s regulations. Most states allow bowfishing for rough fish only. This may include, but isn’t limited to carp, bowfin (dogfish), buffalo, suckers, gar, and others. Game fish such as sunfish, crappie, walleye, bass, and northern pike are usually off-limits.
Can I go bowfishing on any lake or river?
While many public lakes and rivers are open to bowfishing, there are going to be certain bodies of water (or parts of them) that are not open to bowfishing. Spawning areas are sensitive to disturbances during the spawing season, and for that reason they’re often off-limits during the spawn. They may reopen post-spawn, or they may remain closed to bowfishing entirely. Bodies of water within city limits may also be closed to bowfishing. Since many cities have a “firearms discharge” ordinance of some sort, which often includes bows, it may be illegal to shoot your bow on that body of water even if it’s for the purpose of bowfishing. If you have questions about a particular body of water, your state’s DNR should be able to help answer any questions.
Do I need a boat to go bowfishing?
The answer here may be yes or no, depending on your state’s regulations. For example, here in Minnesota there is an “early season” in which you must be in a boat and on a lake or the Mississippi, Minnesota, or St. Croix river until the spawing season is over (the dates may change from year to year.) This is done to help protect spawning grounds for game fish. However, once the regular statewide season begins, you can fish from a boat, from shore, or by wading in the shallows.
What’s the best bow/arrow/reel/point to use?
Unfortunately, these questions are ultimately going to come down to personal preference. What’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander, you know? Some people like a recurve bow with a spincast reel, others prefer a compound bow with a bottle reel. Some fishermen like a two-barb bowfishing point, while others prefer a three-barb grapple point. It always comes down to personal experience and preference. Researching different products and reading reviews is a great idea and can help shape your decision, but the only real way to determine the best setup for you is to start trying gear. It does help to hear first-hand opinions, too. Ask around at your local archery shop, often times you’ll be able to find someone that has experience bowfishing and can give you their thoughts on the products they use.
What do you do with the fish you shoot?
This is a common question among new bowfishermen, but also gets asked by people who don’t bowfish at all. While it would be great to say the fish are used as food for human consumption, that’s usually not the case and is often not recommended. Take carp, for example; common carp are bottom-feeders, which means they scoot along the bottom of lakes and rivers, scrounging around for things like crawfish, benthic critters (worms and other organisms on or in the benthic zone of the lake or river bottom), and other nutrients found on the bottom of the lake or river. Unfortunately, this also means they are prone to sucking up things like old lead fishing tackle, lead shot from shotgun shells fired by duck hunters, and chemicals from runoff that settle on the bottom of the lake. This can make carp in certain bodies of water unsafe for human consumption, so they’re used in alternative ways. Compost material, fertilizer for gardens or food plots, and food for scavengers are the most common uses for rough fish that are taken by bowfishermen.
Have a question that’s not in this list? Submit it in the comments below, and we’ll be happy to answer it for you!