I promise, if you try Bowfishing just once…..it will be your newest bowhunting addiction. I know, because it has become one of my favorite spring/summertime activities. The action can be nonstop and fast-paced, unlike sitting in a treestand, motionless all day.
Unlike the majority of things, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started in bowfishing. I’m sure most of you have an old bow lying around that would be perfect for setting up as a bowfishing rig. If not, you can always pay a visit to your nearest Pawn Shop. These establishments usually have a few to choose from. A recurve or compound, somewhere in the 30-50lb. range will work just fine. Too much draw weight can equal lost arrows and sore muscles from a long day of shooting 100+ shots at fish.
Once an appropriate bow has been acquired, you will need to select a few bowfishing arrows and a reel system to hold the line which will be attached to the arrow. There is a mind boggling amount of bowfishing arrows and reels on the market with an equally large amount of fish points to choose from. A basic, solid fiberglass arrow with a good strong fish point will get you started and do everything you need to put fish in the boat.
There are basically three types of (reels) line holding devices. First is the basic hand reel. Personally, I can’t recommend this method because it takes too much time to hand wrap the line on a drum mounted to your bow. The wasted time will cause you to miss too many shots at other fish in the area. Second on the list is the Zebco bow mounted reel. This is basically a push button spin-cast fishing reel that mounts to your bow. Many people like this style but I want my reel more foolproof. If you happen to forget to push the button, you can kiss your arrow goodbye; hopefully you hang on to the bow though. Last is my favorite style of reel—- the Retriever Reel. When you squeeze the trigger two rubber rollers grab the string and as you turn the handle it feeds the string into a plastic bottle where it is stored until the next shot. It then flies out of the open bottle with very little drag. The Retriever Reel is the most expensive option, but in my opinion it is well worth it.
The Retriever Reel Attached to my bow, ready for action.
As you construct your bowfishing rig you will most likely need to change out your arrow rest. The solid fiberglass arrows used in bowfishing are too heavy for most bow hunting rests to handle. Therefore, choose from many of the easy to install bowfishing rests on the market to solve this problem. Most are simple to operate yet very effective.
Last but not least, you WILL NEED to use safety slides on your arrows. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have these simple items installed on your arrows. They can literally save your life. They work by attaching the line to the safety slide which then slides up and down the arrow. This eliminates the chance of the string catching on something on your bow and snapping the arrow back at you. DO NOT BOWFISH WITHOUT SAFETY SLIDES ON YOUR ARROWS.
An assortment of fish points on arrows complete with Safety Slides.
Now that your bowfishing rig is complete, it’s time to hit the water. Bowfishing can be just as much fun whether you are on the bank, wading or in a boat. As the water starts to warm in early spring the fish head for the shallows in order to spawn. This window of opportunity can make for some of the best bowfishing you will ever find. The fish are preoccupied with making more fish and you can literally walk among them and sometimes get multiple fish with a single shot. Bank fishing and wading are oftentimes more effective during this time because the fish are too shallow or in too much vegetation to reach with a boat.
Floodwaters are also a welcome sight in the spring. As floodwaters spread into fields, rough fish follow the water in search of new food sources. If you can locate a place where shallow water is running over a road or levee you are basically sitting on a gold mine. As fish swim by, they are easily exposed in the shallow water.