Bowfishing, Come Join The Fun

Bowfishing is one the fastest growing hunting sports in the industry. There are many reasons why it is becoming so popular. The main one being it’s just plain fun. You can start with the equipment you already have or there is a whole line of specialized equipment designed just for bowfishing.

Many people get into bowfishing simply because there is a lot of action. Unlike while bowhunting for deer, while bowfishing you can have nonstop action. And you don’t have to sit quiet and still in a stand all day. You can whoop it up on the boat or from shore and have a blast. Rough fish are in an overabundance on most of the lakes and rivers in our area. You are actually doing a service to help control the numbers of the non-native species in the waterways. The main targets are gar, common carp, buffalo, silver carp, and big head carp. However, in some states you can actually bowfish for catfish, spoonbill, stingrays, shark and alligator. Be sure to check the regulations for the body of water you are on at the time, as they can vary widely as to what is a legal fish.

A common carp and a couple of gar taken with my AMS Fish Hawk bow made by Mathews.

Like many outdoor activities, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to bowfish, but there is a complete line of specialized equipment out there for the bowfisher. You can get by with an old recurve bow a tin can mounted to the bow to hold your line and a bowfishing arrow rigged with a safety slide. Always use arrows rigged with safety slides. The safety slide keeps the string out in front of the bow so it doesn’t get tangled up on the shot and snap the arrow back at you. Some of the specialty equipment now on the market for bowfishers include.

    1. Bows made specifically for bowfishing.    2. Solid fiberglass and solid carbon fishing arrows.    3. Retriever Pro bowfishing reels.    4. Roller rest arrow rests.    5. Many different kinds of bowfishing arrow points.

An AMS Retriever Pro Reel, the easiest line control system out there.

A variety of arrows with safety slides and fish points from Muzzy and Cajun Archery.

There are plenty of fish to be shot from the shore, but to really get in on the action it takes a boat rigged up just for bowfishing. The design and layout of these vessels are as different as the people who own them. Anything goes when it comes to bowfishing rigs, from your basic jon boat to full blown air boats. A few things all good bowfishing boats need are.

1. A raised deck for the shooters to stand on.2. A trolling motor or fan for shallow water movement3. Lights and a generator for night fishing.4. A barrel or tub for storing the fish.

My bowfishing rig, an old jon boat with troller, shooting deck, lights and a generator.

A fan powered, custom built bowfishing rig. The “Fantoon”

Two of the more fun species to bowfish for are actually quite new to our waters, the bighead carp and the silver carp, or Asians as they are referred to. These two species of fish have recently entered into many of our river systems. These fish escaped from fish farms when the nearby rivers flooded and released them into the states rivers. They are causing much harm to the native fish in these rivers. The Asians reproduce very rapidly and eat most of the plankton in the waters, interrupting the natural food chain. The silver carp also know as jumpers can cause major damage to boats and also cause severe injury to boaters. These fish have a weird habit of jumping out of the water when startled, like from an outboard motor. Can you imagine getting hit by a 20+ lb fish cruising down the river?  It can be a lot of fun shooting at these silvers from the back of a boat as they rocket out of the water. But it can also be very dangerous having them land in the boat. The bighead carp are a neat species to target because of the size they can reach. The world record taken by bowfishing is just under 100 pounds. Can you imagine having one of those on your line? Bigheads can be found cruising just under the surface as they filter feed through the water.

A couple of Bighead Carp in the 14 lb range from the Illinois River.

Bowfishing at night can also be fun. Most serious bowfishing boats have lights positioned around the shooting platform powered by a generator. Some fish are not spooked by the noise and light at all while others don’t tolerate it very well. The fish show up extremely well in the lights after sundown. And during the summer months, it’s much cooler to go out after dark. And most times you have the water to yourself.

Halogen lights used for bowfishing at night.

If you’re interested in learning more about bowfishing or entering in a bowfishing tournament check out the Illinois Bowfishers website at  









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