Bowfishing: What You’ll Need and How To Start

Bowfishing: What You’ll Need and How To Start

Recreation

Bowfishing: What You’ll Need and How To Start

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Bowfishing is as simple and as challenging as its name implies; that is, it is fishing except with a bow and arrow instead of a rod. Where rod fishing is an exercise in patience, bowfishing adds the excitement of archery to the catch. This is an introduction to the information you’ll want to know before you start bowfishing.

Equipment Needed For Bowfishing

Before you load a boat and head out to water, the following list is the bowfishing equipment you’ll need on hand:

  • Bowfishing bows are similar to the ones used in regular archery. These are variations of traditional bows, recurve bows, and modern compound bows. The best bowfishing bows have weights their minimums to suit the non-combative nature of bowfishing. To keep your bow from water damage an exceptional bow case is recommended.
  • Bowfishing arrows are heavier than their standard counterparts because they must travel through water to reach the target. Bowfishing arrowheads have hooked or barbed endpoints to snare the fish. The fletching–the rear attachment to the arrow that stabilizes flight, usually a feather–is absent from a bowfishing arrow. This is both to allow for a line attachment and to avoid altering its underwater travel. As with the bow, a good arrow case is necessary to keep your tools together as you travel about nature.
  • Bowfishing line is generally the same as a standard fishing line, made from nylon or a similar composite. Unlike standard lines, bowfishing lines are brightly colored so their patch can be seen by the caster, as bowfishing is more about sight than the tug of the line.
  • Bowfishing reels vary depending on the reeling method
    • Bowfishers who use the hand-over-hand retrieval method may use a drum reel to spool their lines. This is considered the old-fashion way to bowfish, and while it does have a ‘man vs. nature’ appeal, it is also the least effective.
    • Spin-cast reels are the most common reels used in competitive bowfishing. The apparatus is similar to a standard fishing reel, except it fits onto a bowcasting bow. They let you transition from shooting an arrow to controlling the reel once a fish is snared.
    • Bottle-style reels, also called bail reels or retriever reels, are a good compromise between the above. The bottle holds your line in place like the drum, while a manual lever or button that gives the control of a spin-cast reel.  
  • Polarizing glasses are special sunglasses that reduce glare, which could prevent seeing into the water. Any respectable shop selling bowfishing gear should have deals on polarizing glasses. 

Where and When I Go Bowfishing?

Bowfishing requires relatively clear and calm water, which can be freshwater like lakes and pods, moving sources like a calm river, and saltwater bodies like bays. You should be able to traverse the shallow areas of these bodies and see fish at the bottom.

Most people consider the natural light of daytime to be ideal for bowfishing, but with spotlights, it is also enjoyable at night. Spring and early fall are the best times of year for bowfishing, as environmental conditions make for the clearest water.

Do I Need a License for Bowfishing?

If you are in the U.S., expect there to be different rules for most states. Most that allow bowfishing limit your available options to rough fish that are less desirable as catches and delicacies, and also abundant enough to avoid any risk of endangerment. There may be local rules prohibiting bowfishing in specific places even if the state allows it, so be sure to verify you are in good legal standing before casting a line.

If you don’t like fishing but love hunting, or you love and fishing and hunting, then you might like this: 7 Bowhunting Tips for Beginners to Follow.

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