Fishing With a Bow… Are You Mad?

fishing with a bowFishing with a bow is possibly something you’ve never heard of. You can catch Carp, Buffalo, Gar, etc, and you can do it from a bowfishing kayak. Regular bows like compound bows and recurve bows are great for this type of fishing, you can even go bowfishing with a crossbow. 

Here you will learn how to bowfish and you’ll be successfully fishing with a bow and arrow before you know it. I’ll also take a look at some of the best value bows available to help you make an educated buying decision.

You’ll Learn Some of the Best Skills For Archery.

Bowfishing is not as popular as other types of archery but it’s way more fun. plus, you’ll learn some of the best skills for archery. You can bowfish during the day or at night using a bowfishing light setup. If you’re looking for something different to do with your family this summer.

You’ll have hours of entertainment and memories that will last forever. Plus, there are many ways to participate including hunting fish from shore, a river bank or boat, shooting targets on land or water (with arrows), and more! 

It’s a Such Great Opportunity to Enjoy the Outdoors with Your Family

the great outdoorsIt doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced hunter or have never hunted before – bowfishing has something for everyone! The sport is growing in popularity and there’s plenty of information in this article so you can learn more about it.

And don’t concern yourself about safety, all hunting regulations apply when bowfishing! 

There are even some states that allow fishing from the shoreline which makes this activity perfect for beginners who want to learn more about hunting without having any experience.

Bowfishing popularity has been increasing in the US for quite a few years and as a result, long time bow manufacturers are starting to sit up and take notice of what’s happening in the archery marketplace.

*One notable benefit of the uptake in this sport is the reduction in the numbers of unwanted fish species in our waters such as –

  • Carp
  • Buffalo
  • Gar
  • Grass Carp

*Be mindful that there are some fish species that cannot be caught by bowfishing so check with your local authorities.

I’m still not sure if this activity is a sport, a hobby or a pastime and, is it fishing or archery? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you call it, the fact is it’s a ton of fun and that’s why it’s popularity continues to increase.

Who are Considered the Fathers of Bowhunting?

Arthur Young and Dr Pope are considered the fathers of bowhunting.

Arthur Young was born August 17, 1883 in Kelseyville, California. The wildlife in the area surrounding these parts was abundant and Arther, his brothers and their friends did a lot of camping, hunting and fishing. A natural sportsman,  Arthur quickly mastered the rifle and pistol and represented the Olympic Club of San Francisco in competitions.

A man by the name of Will Compton taught Arthur the wonderful pastime of archery and by chance, introduced him to Dr. Saxton Pope who was an Ishi and the last of the Yana people. The Yana were a tribe of hunters, gathers and fisherman that lived in Northern California.

Arthur ended up being quite an accomplished archer and as such, was one of a handful of archers who became very proficient with the 80 pound hunting bow, no mean feat!

He and Dr. Pope started crafting bows out of Pacific yew and the pair of them carried bows made from yew into Wyoming to hunt grizzly bears. 

From the half dozen taken on that hunt all but one were taken out quickly and cleanly.

Arthur was an extremely talented writer but unfortunately did not publish anything about his successful adventures. He did write some terrific articles. One, the “Killing Power of the Feathered Shaft” he wrote in March 1935 and appeared in the ‘Sports Afield’ and gave us a relatively brief anecdote of his wonderful experiences and life.

Footnote:

Ishi_Archery ForefatherIshi passed away in 1916 and sadly, the Yana tribe are now extinct.

Diseases traced back to the white gold rush settlers are the considered source of their extinction.

These settlers stole the Yana tribal regions and decimated their lifestyle by killing off the mighty Oak trees along with the acorns that grew from them. Acorns were a primary source of food for the Yana tribe.


Ishi, photo compliments
of Wikipedia.

Bowfishing from a Kayak

Although paddling around in a kayak can be quite exhilarating it can also be plain hard work, it’s a great way to get some exercise.

Aiming at something relatively small that’s moving whilst trying to balance on something that’s unstable takes this activity to another level. There’s also the light bouncing and reflecting off the water just to add another difficulty level.

It is worth it though, a kayak can get into tight places that most other boats cannot.

Best Kayak for Bowfishing

Bowfishing kayakIn my opinion, the best kayak for bowfishing is a hard-shell type with an outrigger attached. The latter can be purchased as an accessory from a number of suppliers who sell outriggers suitable for canoes and kayaks.

Outriggers are generally manufactured from styrofoam or various polymers which are very light materials, inflatable options are also available but these are heavier than the non-inflatable types.

Both types can be simply attached to the hull of your kayak by making use of the fittings provided. Speaking of attachments you can also get yourself a bowfishing light setup so you can do your fishing in the dark.

In my mind, the better quality (and more expensive options) are worth the extra investment because you can lift them up so they don’t drag in the water and slow you down and, you’re able to access tighter spots along a riverbank that may be overgrown with greenery.

They don’t add excessive weight but they do allow you to actually stand up fully whilst keeping your kayak very stable. Another great benefit is your craft remains relatively stable when you’re getting in or out of it.

Where to Aim When Bowfishing

Straight at the fish right.

Wrong!!

We all know that light distorts when is passes through water, to calculate how much it distorts I use the 10/4 formula.

It works like this. 

if you’re looking at a fish that’s 10 feet away and about 12 inches under, you should aim to hit the water 4 inches under the fish. As the fish moves away from you increase the distance that you under shoot by 4 inches for each 10 feet of distance. 

Practice makes perfect for this exercise.

Those that enjoy bowfishing chase after both salt and freshwater fish, in daylight hours and after dark, for there latter option good quality bowfishing boat lights are a must.

There are laws in some states that forbid archery fishing for game fish so shooting and releasing is not an option and the bowmen will usually eat the fish they shoot. Always check relevant regulations in your area prior to firing your first arrow. 

Bowfishing off a kayak has some worthwhile benefits in that you can fish in very tight spots and in very shallow water where no other boat can go.

Bowfishing with Crossbows... Yep, You Heard Right!

This type of fishing is a sport that combines both the thrill of hunting and fishing at the same time. It’s also an excellent way to get your family out on the water, as well as feed them… win/win!

And the good news is, you can use any type of bow for this sport, many people are unaware that they can use a crossbow as well. The crossbow is better suited for shooting targets close-by, which makes it perfect for this form of archery and, you can even get a bowfishing kit for crossbow.

Bowfishing is an exciting and challenging sport that’s perfect for people of all ages. It takes patience, skill, and practice to become proficient. But once you get the hang of it, bowfishing can be one of the most rewarding activities in the world!

The best part about this form of fishing using a crossbow is that anyone can do it! You just need your crossbow and a bowfishing crossbow kit and you’re set.

What's The Best Boat for Bowfishing?

The best boat by far for bowfishing is one that floats!

You don’t need a big expensive boat, just one that floats. Even a bowfishing kayak will do the job nicely however this method does have its downside. You can bowfish from the shore, offshore or on the banks of a river or lake but the best place to do it is from a boat, but not just any old boat. 

It’s important you have the right equipment on board for this sport, which means a boat suitable for fishing with life jackets, flares, an anchor system that can withstand strong currents, a lighting system for night fishing and a first aid pack.

Mind you, if you’re in a dirty river where you can only see for a short distance or in your favorite river that’s been dirtied from heavy rain upstream, seeking out the best bowfishing lights for muddy water would be a worthwhile exercise.

You’ll catch bigger and better fish from a boat simply because you can go where the fish are, they don’t need to come to you. Experienced bowfishing archers can fish at any depth or position in the water. 

This makes it easier to spot, stalk, and shoot fish. It also allows for better maneuverability of the boat which means you have more time to get your shot off before they swim off and disappear into the depths. You’ll never miss another opportunity again with this method!

There’s no doubt about it, bowfishing from a boat is great fun for everyone.

What is the Best Type of Bow for Bowfishing?

bowfishing fishAlthough any bow can be used for bowfishing, it’s generally accepted that the contest really boils down to two contenders, the recurve bow and the compound bow. Accordingly, I have restricted my article to those bows.

The Recurve Bow

Pros:  Recurve bows are good, you won’t be ‘out if pocket’ as much as you would be if you purchased a compound bow and, they’re lighter and more efficient in bowfishing situations.  

They are also less ‘needy’ in terms of maintenance, a compound bow is more complex and it goes without saying that the more complex a device is, the more it costs to maintain. Recurve bows are not complex so the time it takes to nock and shoot an arrow is minimal.

Cons: Being longer than a compound bow you’ll experience occasional brush and railing clearance problems also a higher draw weight than a compound is needed to achieve the same power level.

The compound has larger range of accessory mounts to choose from than the recurve.

The Compound Bow

Pros: Requiring less draw weight than the recurve, a compound bow has more power. With a compound it can be adjusted to your specific requirements as far as draw length and weight. It’s generally accepted that learning and shooting a compound is not as difficult as it is with a recurve and there’s a vast range of worthwhile options for this bow.

Cons: Firstly, you’ll pay more for a compound bow. You will find that a compound is not as light as a recurve and this introduces and additional level of issues that need to be considered when bowfishing. 

They’re definitely a more bulkier device to carry around which provides the fish with better odds of getting away than with a recurve.

The Best Bow for Bowfishing

Can archery get any better… well yes!

If you’re kicking the tin around trying to decide what the best bow for bowfishing is, it’s fortunate that you have arrived at the best place to find out.

Any old compound bow, recurve bow or even a crossbow can be successfully used for bowfishing. Basically, it’s a personal choice or a ‘use the equipment you have’ situation.

Safety Tip: It’s a great to be out on the water bowfishing however your safety, and the safety of others, needs to be top of mind. A fishing vest for any situation where there’s fishing and water involved is a smart option to consider.

I have checked out a number of bowfishing bows that I would consider among the best of the bunch. There’s no real winner and, although there are differences between them, there’s not enough to pick a clear winner.

Bowfishing Arrows Are Made From What Material?

fiberglass bowfishing arrowBased on the bowfishing gear you choose, your success rate in this sport can vary from not good to very good. Arrows, in particular, feature prominently and they alone will have a marked impact on your bowfishing exploits.

You simply cannot choose just any arrow.

Generally speaking, there are a number of different materials used to make bowfishing arrows.

Fiberglass is the most common material used but arrows are also manufactured from carbon fiber and carbon fiber/fiberglass.

Bowfishing arrows need to be significantly heavier than traditional arrows. 

Why it that? 

They need to be able to travel deeper into water and retain enough power to actually kill a fish.

Fiberglass arrows are great for learners, they are as strong as steel, impact resistant and very cost effective.

Carbon fiber arrows are extremely strong, this means they can be fired using a higher draw weight which equates to more power. As good as these arrows are, they’re expensive and may crack if they hit a rock.

Carbon fiber/fiberglass arrows are constructed from thin lengths of carbon fiber usually combined with fiberglass. This combination process results in archers receiving the benefits of both materials. 

These arrows tend to remain straighter for a longer time, they are very rigid and can be used in bows with higher draw weight.

These arrows cost out bang in the middle between fiberglass and carbon so they’re reasonably popular.

Stay Clear of Wood Arrows.

The majority of arrow manufacturers stay clear of using wood in their arrows. Wooden arrows tend to break before arrows made from other materials. Also, the nature of wood is that they will vary in thickness, weight which of course renders them unsuitable.

Cajun Bowfishing Shore Runner Compound Bow

In the world of bowfishing, Cajun is the company known for manufacturing great bows, they have enviable credibility in the archery industry and their Shore Runner kit has just about everything that’s required to get you up and running in this great pastime.

This contemporary compound bow comes complete with an arrow rest, the ‘Winch-Pro bottle reel’, finger protection pads, and one only single (red) arrow made from red fiberglass.

To keep derailed springs to a minimum, this bow has deep cam grooves while the perpetual draw cam provides for simple tuning regardless of draw length.

Cajun bowfishing bows pack great power and the Shore Runner is no different with a 45 pounds of peak draw weight.

Pros:

  • Name to trust
  • Stylish look and feel
  • Everything is included to get you started

Cons:

  • Not the best arrow out there

Takeaway

Cajun is one of the premier archery companies around however, I do feel that the *arrow they supply with this pack is not up to par and I suggest you seriously consider replacing it with something far more suitable. 

*You can buy your arrows ready-made and although it may be tempting to have a go at making your own, I would not recommend doing that. Although there are many variations of arrows available they’re all constructed utilizing the same components being –

  • The shaft
  • The point
  • The nock

And no… it’s not a good idea to even think about using hunting arrows or target archery arrows because when the arrow enters the water the fletching will usually cause the arrow to veer off in obscure directions, guaranteeing a miss.

Cajun Bowfishing Fish Stick Pro

Yep, another Cajun!

The Cajun Bowfishing Fish Stick Pro is another winner, it’s extremely popular with bowfishermen everywhere not only because it’s a takedown bow, but it’s the renowned Cajun great quality.

Speaking of sticking fish, let’s return to Cajun now with their hugely popular take-down recurve bowfishing set up. The aptly-named “Fish Stick” is another excellent beginner option that comes complete with everything you need to get going.

It’s a ready-to-go pack and includes all these benefits –

  • A Spin Doctor reel
  • A reel seat
  • A non-slip grip
  • Blister Buster pads
  • A very set of cool Brush Fire arrows
  • A pull strength of nearly 45 pounds

A great all-round fishing bow ready to go with a bundle of Cajun extras, this take-down design measures 56 inches in length provides a draw weight of 45.

Set to shoot straight out of the box that includes a Piranha arrow with a point for slick fish removal and stronger barbs.

Pros:

  • Amazing price
  • Really easy to use
  • Everything included
  • Versatile to suit your needs.

Cons:

  • The reel isn’t the best
  • No left-handed option

Takeaway

This great quality take-down recurve bow is great for target shooting and hunting and, it goes without saying, bowfishing. Just about everything you need is in the box and it’s competitively priced. This may well be the best bowfishing bow around.

Muzzy Vice Bowfishing Bow

Quick Specs –

  • Axle to Axle Measurement: 30
  • Brace Height: 7.5”
  • Let-Off: Just on 75%

Muzzy is a trusted brand and has been around since 1984. It’s the most respected brand in fixed-blade broad heads as well as a leader in the bow fishing segment. It’s Muzzy’ s ambition to produce innovative products manufactured from the best material available and represent the best value in archery equipment.

This a 30 inch axle-to-axle bow and can fire arrows at around 320 feet per second, it will give you the power for greater accuracy and the ability to nail those longer distances. It has  75% let-off, a brace height of 7.5 inches, a weight of  3.8 pounds and it’s available in left and right handed models.

Most bowfishermen know full well that Muzzy are one of the most respected names in arrow manufacturing, mostly due to their renowned, fix-blade broad head fish stickers.

The same expertise and quality has been carried over to this very capable bowfishing kit. It’s been purpose developed to go after the big boys. 

Your purchase comes with ~

  • XD-Pro push-button reel factory-spooled with 150 feet of 150 lbs competition-grade fishing line.
  • A reel seat.
  • Muzzy fish hook rest.
  • Classic white fish arrow with carp point and nock.
  • Glove-free finger guards factory-installed on the string.

You can test your limits with draw weights from 30 pounds to 60 pounds and the draw length can be adjusted to suit the requirements of any archer.

Pros:

  • Pioneering bowfishing company
  • Pro-level set up
  • Suitable for all skill levels
  • Quality accessories
  • Right and left hand options available.

Cons:

  • Left-handed models can be difficult to come by
  • Might be a bit expensive for beginners
  • Color scheme might be a bit wild for some

Takeaway

If you don’t mind that crazy green paint job, this is a world-class bowfishing set up from a company at the top of their game in the sport. Quality parts, components, and accessories across the board.

PSE Archery The Kingfisher Recurve Bow Set

Established in 1971, PSE Archery are a real force in this industry and manufacturer great products that withstand the test of time.

Their preferred customer demographic is pro bowhunters and they invest as much time and effort in research and development of their bowfishing range of equipment.

They offer a cost effective, beginner recurve bow and drum reel bow.

Right out of there box this bow comes with everything that’s required to hit the water including a Fish Stick arrow, safety stop and slide.

It also arrives with 22 yards of 60 pound line on the drum reel plus a tide chaser rest.

Kingfisher by name and nature, you’ll be nailing those carp in no time.

Pros:

  • Great price.
  • Name to trust in archery.
  • Ideal length for bowfishing.
  • Precision machined riser.

Cons:

  • Fairly basic package
  • Manual drum reel not for everyone.

Takeaway

A great beginner combo for those thinking about giving the sport of bowfishing a shot or,  if you just relish the challenge of mastering a basic recurve bow and drum reel, this will do the job nicely.

FAQ's

“Can you use a regular bow for bowfishing?”

  • Yes, absolutely. With the right accessories you can use the same bow that you take target shooting or hunting.

“How do you attract carp for bowfishing?’

  • Here’s a quick and dirty option for attracting Carp and it’s so simple you’ll kick yourself. All you do is rip the top off a tin of sweet corn and you’ll be set.

    Bow fishers generally choose to throw in a one or two cobs of corn, this usually gets things going however it may also attract unwanted fish. Check with your local authorities to ensure that you’re not breaking the law.

“What is the Recommended Draw weight for Bowfishing?”

  • It’s generally accepted that 30 to 40 pounds is the best draw weight for fishing with a bow however, a tad either side of these figures will still get the the job done.

“Do You Need a Licence to Bowfish?”

  • Short answer is yes, to bowfish you will need to be in possession of a sport fishing license, although you do not actually require one specifically for bowfishing.

    Do check local and state regulations for any specific requirements that you need to know about..

“What Type of Fish Can I Bowfish?”

  • You can catch common Carp, River Carpsucker, Longnose and shortnose Gar, Spotted and Alligator Gar, Paddlefish, Threadfin Shad, Buffalo, Freshwater Drum, Catfish and Bowfin.

    Like freshwater bowfishing, allowable saltwater species are based on where you live and include a wide and varied range of fish including sharks, flounder, sheepshead, rays and, if you’re in Louisiana, red fish.

    Again, check with local and state authorities regulations for any specific requirements.