The exhilaration of bowfishing is unforgettable: hearing the snap of your string, the whirl and splash of the arrow, and your involuntary cheers when reeling in your fish. If you’re looking to start regularly bowfishing, here's some useful tips:
Watch a few videos
You’ve probably seen bowfishing videos, or even seen people bowfish in person. However, when you decide to learn a skill, you start to notice things you hadn’t before. Rewatch the videos and pay attention to the kind of bow that is used, the reel and what kind of fish they’re after. That said, this isn’t super critical and you certainly shouldn’t stop here.
Get the right gear
You can turn pretty much any old bow into a bowfishing bow. Muzzy Bowfishing sells a complete kit with everything you need to transform your old bow into a bowfishing rig. But if you're looking to get really serious, they also sell a complete ready to go recurve bow. You’ll notice the arrows are specialized for shooting fish. Regardless of how you get your hands on the gear, be sure to practice regularly.
A few other things: Polarized glasses are a MUST as well as sunscreen, bug spray, a towel to wipe your hands, a fish gaff, and back up arrows and tips. You’ll also want a large drum bucket for the fish that you stick
Read the regs
Make sure you know your state’s regulations, especially the species of fish. Many states will let you fish for carp, gar, and bowfin anywhere and anytime of the year. Some carp are an invasive species so clearing them out of the water is essential to the survival of native fish and they CAN be good eatin’ if cooked right despite what people say off hear-say. (Here’s a video of how to fillet carp)
Hit the water
Read up online about good spots in your area. Even with a boat, you want to be in shallow waters for the best fishing. If you're shooting from the shore, stalk quietly! Carp love warm weather and often come to the surface to sunbathe but they are very sensitive to footsteps and will scare easily. You can also hunt them at night from a boat with lights (see below).
And remember to AIM LOW
This is one of the hardest parts of bowfishing. You’ll need to adjust to the refraction of the water by aiming below your target. After some practice, you'll get a feel for how low you'll need to go after a few shots. Starting out, try to aim about 6 inches below the fish.
You can also bowfish from a boat
If you live somewhere with murky or muddy waters, in addition to all of the above, you’ll need more than just arrows, a bow, and reel to make it happen. You’ll want a boat that allows you to stand. Usually, this means a flat-bottom boat with a platform on the front. The boat will also have a generator to power bright lights mounted on the front. There are also guide services available, a quick google search should bring some up in your area.
Some of this may sound complicated, but the best way to get started with anything is to just go. If you have a bowfishing rig, a fishing license, and you know how to ID rough fish – get out there and practice. It is recommend that for your first few times, you go with someone experienced. A guide or a women’s workshop is an excellent way to get your feet wet...or in this case, your bowfishing line!
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