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Do you want to learn how to bowfish? Bowfishing is a fun and exciting sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about how to bowfish.

We will cover the basics concerning how to bowfish such as how to choose the right equipment and how to set up your shot. We will also discuss some of the best techniques for bow fishing, including how to spot fish in shallow water and how to shoot them accurately.

How To Bowfish
How To Bowfish

Bowfishing Equipment

1. Bow

There are several different types of bows that can be used for bow fishing, including recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows. However, it doesn’t need to be an expensive one. If you are just starting with bow fishing, a used one from a pawn shop or from family or friends with a good string will be ok. One with a draw weight of 25 to 50 pounds will serve you well. You can read a review of the best recurve bows from this link.

2. Reel

The reel retrieves your catch or the arrow on a missed shot. The success of your bow fishing can hinge on the reel. There are three types of reels: the hand reel, the bottle, and the spin cast reel.

A. Hand Reel

The hand reel is the most basic of the reels. It consists of a drum with a line spool around it. It is simple to use and most affordable. It has no breakable parts. After shooting your arrow, you roll the line around the drum as you pull. The hand reel, however, requires heavier lines and a lot of manual labor.

B. Bottle Reel

The bottle reel features a bottle that has a line and a handle. It is reliable and the most popular reel. Bottle reels usually use heavy lines and you won’t encounter a problem pulling in the line. However, accurate long shots may be a challenge.

C. Spincast Reel

The spincast reel is a reel mounted on a bow. You can retrieve the line faster than any other reel with the spincast reel. Spincast reels feature thin lines and this allows you to take long shots with more accuracy. Spincast reels pose a challenge to clean and maintain. They are also not the cheapest reels.

Bowfishing Ideas
Bowfishing Ideas

3. Arrows

The arrow for bow fishing is not the regular arrow used for hunting. It is a specific arrow for bowhunting. They are durable as they are made of carbon or fiberglass. Bowfishing arrows are long and thick.

4. Arrow Rest

The arrow rest keeps the arrow in position when lining up your shot. It holds the arrow tight to the bow and allows it to shoot through without any issue.

5. Polarized Sunglasses

This is not a must-have bowfishing item. However, it protects your eyes and helps you with the glare to take your best shot.

Bowfishing Tips
Bowfishing Tips

6. Lights

If you will fish at night, lights can help you see the fish better. Spotlights and headlamps are usually the lights anglers use for bow fishing at night.

7. Waders

Waders allow you to go deeper into shallow water to have better shots at the fish.

8. Bug spray

Bug spray will keep insects and other pests away from you as they are attracted to light.

Bowfishing Tips And Tricks
Bowfishing Tips And Tricks

Types of Fish For Bowfishing

1. Carp – Common, Bighead, Silver, Grass

Carp is one of the popular species of fish that bowfishermen target when bowfishing as they can be found in clear and shallow waters.

2. Gar – Longnose, Shortnose, Spotted, Alligator

Gar is also another fish that bowfishermen target when bowfishing.

3. Buffalo – Bigmouth, Smallmouth

Buffalo is also another species of fish that are caught when bowfishing.

4. Freshwater Drum

Drum in freshwater are caught when bowfishing for other fish like carp.

5. Catfish

Catfish are also a target when bowfishing as they are spotted sometimes when bowfishing for carp.

6. Tilapia

Tilapia is also caught when bowfishing when they are found in shallow waters.

Bowfishing Tricks
Bowfishing Tricks

How To Bowfish

1. Know your state’s law. You might need a fishing license or a hunting one might be what you need. You can read this article on 30 hunting items every hunter needs.

2. Bowfishers have to judge the distance from the fish, the light refraction, and the fish’s depth. When you are learning how to bowfish, this is very important.

3. Due to refraction, you want to be 10-15 feet away from the fish when you shoot. Aim at about six inches below the fish to compensate for the water’s refraction. If it is a big fish, aim for its belly to hit it.


4. Don’t aim directly at the fish. You will most likely miss it. Always aim low because of refraction. When learning how to bowfish, this may seem strange when introduced to you, but if you remember refraction from your high school Physics class, then it will all makes sense.

5. Dams and overflows are good places to bowfish, especially during the spawn.

6. After taking many shots and with experience, you will not have to think about aiming lower as it will come instinctively.

Learning To Bowfish
Learning To Bowfish

7. A hat, polarized sunglasses, and suntan lotion will help if you bowfish during the day. At night, you will need lights and bug spray.

8. Sharpen your shooting skills by taking practice shots with some object or a leaf under the water. This will help you to adjust your shot.

9. Start bow fishing with a body of water that you are familiar with. When you hone your skills and gain experience, you can choose a lake or river that you are familiar with especially if you will bowfish at night.

10. It is good to know where the shallow parts of the river are, the clumps of vegetation, and where the fastest currents run. You can do some research with Google Earth to identify possible locations of these areas.

11. Many bowfishers believe that the best time to bowfish is the spawn. During this time, the fish are easily seen, they are in the reedy shallows and distracted.

12. In the Spring, carp are usually in weedy and shallow areas. Additionally, areas with stumps, reeds, and brushes are also good places to bowfish.

13. Shallow rocky rivers in the spring can reveal a treasure trove of carp.

Ideas For Bowfishing
Ideas For Bowfishing

How To Bowfish For Carp

Carp can be found in most of the United States with the Gulf States being popular bowfishing locations. You can find them in freshwater lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and ponds. They can be found around reed beds, lilies, and other structures early in the morning and late evening.

The best time of the year to go bowfishing is the summer and fall months from April to October. You will use a bow and arrow at close range when bowfishing for carp. Most of the waters that you will be bowfishing in will be shallow and clear.

For successfully bowfishing, you will need the right bowfishing gear. There are complete bowfishing packages that you can get from stores. The main gear for bowfishing includes a bow, arrow, reel, and arrow stabilizer. Recurve or compound bows work well when bowfishing.

Use arrows made specifically for bowfishing; don’t use hunting or archery arrows. For reels, there is the hand reel, the bottle reel, and the spincast reel. The spincast reel is popular for its accuracy and its ability to quickly retrieve the lines.

When bowfishing, you just need to be careful and not make a lot of noise to alert the fish. Secondly, you need to take good aim. Most of the time the water will be clear and shallow which will help you when taking aim.

Refraction is a major factor when bowfishing since light waves refract when they hit the water. Therefore you will have to aim slightly below the fish to actually hit it. Many bowfishermen recommend aiming about 6 inches beneath the fish and then follow the 10-4 rule.

This rule states that to hit a fish that is a foot below the water, aim 4 inches underneath it, then add an extra 4 inches for every 10 feet in the distance you travel.

How To Bowfish At Night

Many bowfishermen prefer bowfishing at night. Scouting the area during the day will improve your chances of success at night. it will help you understand the area you want to target at night. use Google Maps or fishing apps to also help you scout and mark areas you want to focus on during the night.

Determine which type of fish you want to target when bowfishing at night and look for areas and signs of it. Get the right gear for bowfishing. The right bow, arrow, reel, and arrow stabilizer are very important. Ultimately, you want a bow that can draw back quickly and shoot fast. You will also need very good lighting when bowfishing at night. There are many options with LED lighting being one of them.

Bowfishing comes down to spotting your target and taking a good shot to hit it. It is not complicated and the more you bowfish, the better you will become. Refraction plays an important part when it comes to hitting fish in the water. You will have to aim slightly below the fish to hit it.

How To Bowfish From Shore

Bowfishing from the shore involves finding areas that give you access to shallow and clear waters. When you arrive at the shore, spend some time studying the water and the shoreline. Calm waters give you a good opportunity to bowfish. Look for areas that are clear and shallow. Look for areas that show signs of marine life. See if you can spot fish moving through the water.

Additionally, learn to walk lightly and don’t make a lot of noise when you walk along the shore. Try as much as possible to keep your shadow from the water. Most fish will be close to structures to use as cover for protection and concealment when ambushing their prey. Broken-down docks, piers, and fallen trees are some of the structures that fish will hang around.

When you find good spots, take a position and carefully watch and wait for fish to come closer. When they do, aim and take a good shot. You will be successful more times than not. And always take refraction into account when shooting in the water.

How To Bowfish For Catfish

Catfish are not often found in shallow waters. But when they do, you can bowfish for them. Most of the time, you will be bowfishing for carp when you spot catfish. When you see catfish, take aim with your bow. Refraction has to be taken into account and the fish won’t be exactly where your naked eyes see it. You will have to shoot slightly underneath it to hit the catfish.

How To Bowfish Muddy Water

Bowfishing is usually done in shallow, clear, and calm waters. Therefore, when the water is muddy, it presents a challenge for the bowfishermen. However, there are tricks that you can apply to bowfish in muddy water.

When the water is muddy, look for backwater areas where there may be flooded timber or crop fields. A backwater with the same continuous water flows that made the water muddy. You can also look for pinch points where you can find fish swimming.

Additionally, look for shallow areas with big rocks where carp and other fish may be hanging out in ambush of their prey. Target those areas. Bowfishing at night is another option when the water is muddy and you can use lights to help see in the water.

You can also wait for them to spawn as this will happen in shallow waters or near banks. Since they will be spawning, there will be many of them in the area making it easier to target them. You can also use chumming if it is legal in your area. You can drop pieces of bait into the water to attract them and create a trail closer to you in the shallow water.

How To Bowfish For Beginners

Bowfishing is a fun and effective way of fishing. To get into bowfishing as a beginner, you will need the right gear. A bow and arrow, a reel, and an arrow stabilizer are the essential gear. Some archery practice to improve your aiming will help improve your chances of landing the fish.

Next, you may want to go back to high school physics and refresh about refraction. When light waves hit the water, they refract. This means the fish will not be exactly where you see it. You will have to aim slightly underneath it to actually hit it.

When bowfishing, study the water and look for structures that may be protruding out of the water. Poles, damaged docks, piers, fallen trees, and logs are some of the structures that fish will be around as they seek cover when ambushing prey. Look for big rocks in shallow waters as fish will also be near them trying to ambush prey.

Additionally, learn to walk lightly on the shores when bowfishing and avoid making a lot of noise. Wear dark-colored clothes to keep yourself concealed.

Learn the fishing rules for your state. Sometimes the fish may be hard to spot and if it is legal in your state, you can chum to get fish out of their hiding areas and closer to you. Learn when the fish in your area spawn as they will come into shallow waters when spawning and there will be many of them in the area.

Bowfishing Safety Tips

1. Have a safety slide installed on all of your arrows to prevent tangles, especially if you are a beginner.

2. Be attentive and watch out for your line tangling or sliding around the bow.

3. The bow fishing line should never be tied directly to the back end of your arrow.

4. If you are in a boat, wear your life jacket at all times.

5. Be familiar with the areas you will be bow fishing in. Research on Google Earth can help.

6. Don’t fish in areas that are not permitted for bow fishing.

7. Monitor the local weather for the area you want to bow fish in before going out.

8. Have safety gear with you at all times.

9. Have a first aid kit with you.

10. Take along a waterproof flashlight, maps, flares, and a horn, or whistle.

11. Make sure your cell phone is charged and take a solar charger if possible.

12. Wear hip waders and waterproof boots if you will only bowfish the shallow areas.

13. Step with caution and be mindful of the depth of the water you are wading in.

14. Inform someone where you will be going to bow fish. Inform them of your departure and return times.

15. Take enough snacks and bottles of water.

Tips For Bowfishing
Tips For Bowfishing

Safety Gear Checklist

1. Life Jackets

2. First Aid Kit

3. Maps

4. Compass

5. Waterproof Flashlight

6. Flares

7. Whistle or Horn

8. Snacks

9. Bottles of Water

10. Cell Phone & Solar Charger

11. Hat

12. Sunscreen

13. Polarized Sunglasses

14. Rainwear

Tricks For Bowfishing
Tricks For Bowfishing

Do you aim high or low when bowfishing?
Due to refraction, you have to aim low. You can’t aim directly at the fish.
How difficult is bowfishing?
Bowfishing is not difficult. You can start with gear from a friend or family member. Practice your shots by targeting at the bottom of the water until you adjust your shots. Take into consideration water refraction and in time it will become instinctive.
What do you do with the fish you shoot bowfishing?
You can eat it, give it away, or use it for fertilizer.
How deep can you bowfish?
You can blowfish 3 to 4 feet deep.
What is a good draw weight for bowfishing?
A good draw weight for bowfishing is about 25 to 50 pounds.
Can you bowfish during the day?
Yes, you can blowfish during the day. Take along polarized sunglasses, a hat, suntan lotion, etc.

The Bottom Line

How to bowfish is not as difficult to learn as it seems. Bowfishing is an exciting outdoor activity that continues to gain popularity. In this article, we discussed how to bow fish, the basic equipment you need, some of the popular fish bow fishermen go after, safety, and other bow fishing-related topics.

We hope that these bowfishing tips will help you be successful at bow fishing. You can learn how to fish a pond by reading this article from this link.