Cool Down With Bowfishing!

There's no better way to spend a sultry summer's day than knee deep in cooling water shooting non-native carp, gar or buffalo fish with bow. Where I live in the west, there's plenty of wide-open bowfishing action, most notably carp in the shallows of silt-laden desert reservoirs. If you consider Texas the West — which I do — add three species of gar and buffalo fish (and certain saltwater species) to the list.

Getting started is inexpensive (if you wish it to be) and easy. Of course, you'll need some basic gear. Regarding bows, make sure you choose something you don't mind getting wet and muddy...an old compound hanging in the garage collecting dust or pawn-shop recurve.

Compounds are best for deliberate shots in deeper water, traditional bows in shallows where from-the-hip moving targets are likely.



You'll then need a bowfishing reel, arrow and point. When shooting compounds a special bowfishing arrow rest made to support more weight and eliminate tangles is recommended, products like Trophy Ridge's Bowfishing Whisker Biscuit or AMS Bowfishing's Tidal Wave, as examples. You can shoot instinctively, or with a sight, that's up to you. Shooting off the shelf and instinctively works exceptionally well with traditional bows.

The bowfishing reel stores line during the shot, pays it off smoothly on release, and allows retrieval of the arrow after. Bowfishing arrows are constructed of something like solid fiberglass to be extra heavy, to penetrate resistant water while retaining enough push to skewer tough scale and bones of tenacious rough fish. A barbed fishing point keeps fish from slipping off the arrow during retrieval.

Like anything in archery, you can buy inexpensive gear that'll get the job done 90 percent of the time, or you can pay extra for added convenience. Budget-priced drum reels require hand winding during retrieval, and somewhat limit range, but served archers such as Fred Bear for decades. Bohning, Saunders and Cajun Archery sell fine examples. Mid-priced spinning-reel outfits, like those from Muzzy Products, offer faster arrow retrieval, but require pushing a "cast" button before every shot. The ne plus ultra bowfishing reel is AMS Bowfishing's Retriever. By depressing a lever and reeling it stacks line neatly in an attached bottle. To shoot you simply draw and release, with no bails or buttons to push. Line pays out smoothly, allowing longer shots. They retail for around $70.

In fish arrows, a budget-priced, solid-fiberglass shaft costs about $5, a fancier model with carbon fiber less than $10. Both will last a lifetime. I still shoot fiberglass fish arrows I owned as a kid. In fish points you can spend from $2 to $15 for a single point. The difference? Budget points will make removing fish slower, normally requiring unscrewing an entire head assembly. The more expensive point will include instantly-reversible barbs for faster fish removal. The expensive point will probably hold up better while shooting in areas with lots of rock or hard stumps. the budget point will work fine for soft mud bottoms.


Aside from this basic gear, all you need is a pair of polarized sunglasses (to better see submerged targets), a set of grunge clothes and ratty sneakers (bowfishing is wet, muddy business), plenty of sunscreen to protect from the hot sun — and a willingness to slop through wet, swampy terrain. Bowfishing targets -- non-native, invasive carp mostly -- show up nearly anywhere there's permanent water, so you won't have to look far. Check local regulations relating to bowfishing (some states require fishing licenses, others don't), and remember to aim low, as water refraction makes submerged targets appear higher in the water than they actually are. But beware: Bowfishing's addicting and you'll find yourself spending every spare summer moment hitting local waters for more!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

CenterPoint CP400 Crossbow – First Look

CenterPoint CP400 Crossbow – First Look

CenterPoint Archery evolves in design and performance with the introduction of the new CP400 Crossbow.

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

"Petersen's Bowhunting" editor Christian Berg and Mathews design engineer Mark Hayes talk the smooth, quiet and fast shooting qualities of the new flagship Vertix bow from the Wisconsin bowmaker.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

ATA 2020: The new flagship bows are here, and it's an impressive crop! ATA Show

New Bows for 2020

Tony J. Peterson - January 09, 2020

ATA 2020: The new flagship bows are here, and it's an impressive crop!

Crunching the numbers on North America's most important game species Whitetail

2020 State of the Whitetail Report

Jason Snavely - June 29, 2020

Crunching the numbers on North America's most important game species

You don't need to go broke to get yourself a new, high-performance archery rig. ATA Show

New Budget Bows & Crossbows for 2020

Tony J. Peterson - January 09, 2020

You don't need to go broke to get yourself a new, high-performance archery rig.

Follow this step-by-step process to quickly field dress your deer for the best possible venison. How-To

How to Field Dress & Quarter a Deer

Mike Stroff

Follow this step-by-step process to quickly field dress your deer for the best possible...

See More Trending Articles

More Bowfishing

A beginner's guide for diving into the action. Bowfishing

Bowfishing 101

Mark Taylor - October 28, 2010

A beginner's guide for diving into the action.

Some of the East Coast's best bowfishing is located in western Pennsylvania. Bowfishing

Bowfishing in the Shadows of Downtown Pittsburgh

Christian Berg

Some of the East Coast's best bowfishing is located in western Pennsylvania.



There's no better way to spend a sultry summer's day than knee deep in cooling water shooting Bowfishing

Cool Down With Bowfishing!

Patrick Meitin - July 11, 2012

There's no better way to spend a sultry summer's day than knee deep in cooling water shooting

Being a predator hunter, I have a passion for heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping adventures. From Bowfishing

Catch of a Lifetime: Jeff Thomason's Bowfishing World Record Mako Shark

Jeff Thomason - January 29, 2015

Being a predator hunter, I have a passion for heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping adventures....

See More Bowfishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now