Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is bowfishing?
Bowfishing combines the skill of archery will the thrill of fishing. Bowfishermen use archery equipment (compound bows, traditional bows, and crossbows) with specially designed bowfishing reels and line. A fish is shot with the arrow and then reeled in with the reel. Quite simply, bowfishing is fishing with a bow and arrow.
2. What types of fish can you bowfish for?
Most non-game and rough fish species are legal for bowfishing. Carp, buffalo, gar, and many other invasive or exotic species are legal. Many of these species are dangerous to our waterways and overpopulated, thus no bag limits on most. Most state game and fish divisions are glad for you to remove as many as possible. Check your local regulations for specifics.
3. Where can I bowfish?
Bowfishing is legal in almost any water rod and reel fishing is. Good shooting can be found anywhere from small streams to large reservoirs. Great bowfishing can be found all over the United States.
4. Can I use my deer hunting bow for bowfishing?
Yes. You just have to be able to remove some of your deer hunting accessories and replace them with bowfishing accessories, like your sights, rest, stabilizer, etc.
5. What's the best bowfishing setup?
This is a matter of personal preference. The retriever reel is probably the most popular reel. It has no drag, no button to push, and rarely tears up. The disadvantage to is that it's slower to get fish in and many times the line falls out and gets tangled in things. These reels use the Muzzy extreme type line or Brownell 400# Fast Flight works extremely well too. Some prefer the push button spincast type reel. It uses the fast flight 200# line on a reel seat. It offers quick retrieves, an adjustable drag for fighting fish, and you don't have to worry about your line going everywhere. These reels use the 200# fast flight or 150# tournament smaller diameter line. This is preferred reel of most tournament shooters. A hand wrap reel is for the beginning bowfisherman on budget, but you will probably quickly outgrow it. Most any bowfishing rest will work, the AMS Wave Rest and Muzzy Fish Hook are two of the most popular. Avoid using regular deer hunting rests, this can be dangerous and they are not designed for that. For bows, most any compound or traditional bow will work. I've seen people shoot as low as 27 lbs on most anything up to 60 lbs. 35-55 lbs is probably the most common weight and effective on most anything.
6. What's the difference in the carp point and gar point?
I almost always use the carp point, because we mainly shoot more softer flesh fish here, like grass carp, carp, and buffalo. The gar point is extremely effective for larger gar and especially alligator gar, it's almost a must for them. It provides increased penetration. For soft flesh fish, the carp point makes a smaller entry hole which helps in reducing lost fish.
7. What should you do with the fish?
This is a common question. Many of the fish are actually edible and good to eat, if prepared the proper way. If you choose not to, there are means of utilizing the fish. Many homeless shelters will take them. Alligator and hog farms will take them most of the time. Trappers like to have the fish also. Rendering plants will take the fish also, especially from tournaments to make pet food and other products. Whatever you do, don't dump them at the boat ramp or throw them away. This is very illegal and also a black eye to our sport and hurts our image, so do something with the fish, period.
10. When is the best time of year to bowfish?
This is really region specific. Around here in the south, it's good pretty much year round, even in the winter the carp are still out. Late spring probably represents the overall best time if I had to pick one.
11. What is the best time of day to bowfish?
Nighttime, absolutely, no doubt. If you find a place where there's good bowfishing in the day, at night will be ten times better. Fish come out more and feel more secure at night as the water cools.
12. What do you need for night bowfishing in a boat?
You can start simple with a trolling motor, Q-beam spotlight, and 12 volt battery. We did that for many years and killed many fish. The next step would be a generator with halogen lights, like the 500 Watt work lights, just make sure you have enough generator to power them. A raised platform is another common addition. Aluminum flat bottom boats are the choice for most. Then you can progress on into fan boats and air boats for the real hardcore. If you have specifics on boat questions feel free to email me and I can answer them. I could go on a long time about boats.
13. Where do you find fish at?
This is also lake specific. But generally the shallow flats, weed beds, backs of coves, and structure hold fish. Shallow water with good visibility offers your best opportunity.
14. What about bowfishing tournaments?
Bowfishing tournaments are a lot of fun. There are basically two types, numbers (total number of fish) and big fish, like a Big 20 (biggest 20 fish). It's a great way to meet other bow fishermen and get ideas on boats, etc.
15. Should I join a bowfishing organization?
Yes. The future of our sport depends on having organized numbers of sportsmen band together for a common cause. This is what we use to fight the anti's. It's also a great way to meet people that you have something in common with. A group like the Bowfishing Association of America is a great organization to join and I encourage all bowfishermen to join.
16. What type of license do you need for bowfishing?
A regular fishing license is required in most states, as is the case in Alabama, but check regulations for specifics, a hunting license may be required in some areas.
17. How do I aim at the fish?
Getting used to shooting at fish below water can be challenging, it's called light diffraction. A good general rule is to aim 4" low for every foot the fish is underneath the water, for example if the fish was 2 feet deep you would aim about 8 inches low. This does vary but it's a thing you will get the feel for with practice.
18. Do lights and generators spook fish?
Fish such as gar, carp, buffalo and drum might move away slowly but sometimes you can float right over the top of them and they won’t move. In fact, if you find them in submerged grass, they sometimes will lay still and hope you pass right over/by them. Grass carp however, are a bit more skittish and must be “stalked” if you will. If you know or think a grass carp is in a certain area, be ready because once they spook, they leave in a hurry and will offer you a small window of opportunity to get a shot.
19. How do regular bowfishing arrows fly compared with carbon arrows?
The carbon bowfishing arrows are a bit lighter and straighter, so they do fly slightly different. With a little practice, you quickly adapt to it though.
20. How deep can you shoot?
Probably 5-6 feet is about max with average bowfishing setups, some people will use stainless arrows for deeper shots, but you will lose a lot of fish at greater depths.
21. Aluminum or steel for boat deck?
Aluminum is lighter and rust-proof, but quite a bit more expensive and harder to weld. Steel is much cheaper but a little heavier and you must paint it. It's a trade off.
22. Can you run your trolling motor off of the generator?
Not recommended, you can burn a trolling motor up like this from over voltage. You need a power converter for the appropriate wattage, that converts AC to 12 V DC power. Email me for more info.
23. How do you put no-glovs on the string?
Use a bobby pin or cotter pin to install on string, make sure to wax the string loop thoroughly and squeeze down the loops before sliding the no-glovs on. With the wax and bobby pin, it is not difficult to install, but you do have to remove 1 end of the string. You just slip the bobby pin over the string loop, slide the no-glov onto the pin and slide and twist the no-glov over the string loop and slide down string to proper placement. I recommend having a nock point on the string for the arrow nock to go against and have the short no-glov above the nock point and the long no-glov below the arrow nock. If you shoot 3 fingers under, just put nock point on string with arrow nock against it and both no-glovs under the arrow nock. Vasoline or dish soap will also help on the string, but wax is recommended.
24. Which brand of fan motor should you use?
My personal experience is with Briggs and Stratton motors, but most any horizontal small engine will work, Honda, Robin, Kohler, etc. Email for specific fan questions.
25. What type of lights for the boat?
For running lights with a generator, regular 500W work lights from Lowe's or Home Depot is what most use. Splashing water won't effect them. Just make sure to have enough watts from your generator to run them. For a constant running, you don't want to exceed 80% of the maximum rated wattage on your generator. You can also use the 350W Ultra Halogen bulbs made by GE, they produce the same light as the 500W bulbs, but only use 350W and last longer. They do cost a little more but are worth it, they are what I use. High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide have also become a popular energy efficient light source for bowfishing.