As the burning summer sun makes its way above the tops of the trees, I focus on the muddy water in front of me. Bow in hand, my eyes scan the lake for the telltale splash and flick of a yellow tail on the surface that will tell me there is a carp in front of me.
A swirl of a fin created a cloud as I see the back of the fish come up to the surface. Drawing my recurve, I make a snap shot and the fish takes off, my arrow dancing above the water.
This is the best of summer.
Bowfishing, once an extremely popular hobby in the 70s, has made a strong comeback over the past few years. More and more people are becoming interested in learning how to bowfish, and many sports shops now carry all of the gear that you need to get started.
If you’re looking for a few reasons to jump into it and get out on the water, here are a few to start.
This is by far the top reason I started bowfishing years ago. It just looked like it would be so fun, particularly to someone who loved shooting a bow and someone who liked fishing. This hobby combined the two loves and created a reason to get out on the water more. It’s also a learning experience, as you’ll have to adjust your shooting to the water refraction. Aim low, and after you hit a few fish, you will get the hang of it. Polarized sunglasses are also a huge help on sunny days!
Although a new setup for bowfishing is great if you can afford it, you don’t have to blow your budget to get set up. Some people use their bowhunting bow, which although I understand, I don’t entirely suggest. Bowfishing is extremely dirty, so getting a bow setup specifically for shooting fish is a great idea. Check out Craigslist, eBay, Marketplace, or even yard sales to find an old bow in working condition that only costs a few bucks. (Ideal draw weight should be 35-45 pounds). A hand reel and shelf rest only cost a few dollars, buy some fiberglass bowfishing arrows and you’re good to go.
Although boats are fun, you don’t need one of those either. The biggest fish I have ever shot were all taken while I was standing on the bank of a creekbed or river. Bank shooting will get you a lot of fish if you know where the fish are. Don’t rule out kayaks and paddleboards either; Canoes are also a great way to get into shallow waters that are hard to get to.
Bowfishing was started as a way to take out the invasive species. If you take a few minutes to read up on your local bowfishing laws you will notice that the only fish legal to shoot are invasive and detrimental to the water. Many states don’t allow you to return the fish you shoot to the water unless you ensure they are dead first, as the goal is to prevent the fish from breeding. Removing as many as possible from the waters they reside in is not only helping other fish and water life, but also ducks and other animals that utilize the water.
Although some fish you shoot, such as gar, suckers, and catfish are good to eat, others aren’t as great. Carp in particular are not something I have ever cared to eat. If you choose to eat them, the more power to you! However, there are a number of things you can do with your fish besides just tossing them on the bank or back in the water.
You can donate the fish to someone who will eat them, you can use them as fertilizer in your garden or bait for fishing, use them as coyote bait if you are a coyote hunter, or look up zoos and game farms in your area. Many such places will pay you per pound for fish to feed to their animals.
Note: If you do toss them on the bank, either bury them or leave them in an area where other people aren’t going to stumble upon them. Be respectful of others.
It’s Great Practice
Summer is usually a time when bowhunters take a short break from shooting their bows, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, bowfishing will help keep your muscles accustomed to shooting and will also greatly improve your eyes ability to pick up on small movements.
It’s Good For All Ages
Though some states may have specific draw weight requirements for bowfishing, most do not, which makes shooting fish something that anyone can do. If you have kids, it’s something that they can certainly get out and enjoy doing with you – or something you can do with family and friends.