Bowfishing Basics

Bowfishing is an excellent way to ease your mind as you eagerly wait for the fall hunting season to arrive. Dip your toes in the water this summer and start bowfishing with these simple tips.

First thing is first; you don’t need expensive gear to begin your journey of bowfishing. Many have the impression that bowfishing is an expensive sport, but the reality is that you can have a budget-friendly set-up for as low as $30-$120, depending on what you have on hand. You can start by rummaging through old equipment laying around to put together a makeshift set up that can be just as accurate as the expensive set-ups bought from the store. Craigslist and ebay are also great sources for finding some used equipment to get started with.

Draw weight on your bow only needs to be between 25-50 pounds with a prong-type rest. You can pick from the seemingly limitless options for reels, or just settle for a basic hand reel for around $10. Bowfishing arrows can run from $10-$20 and up depending on how serious you’d like to be. The arrows and arrow tips are the most important parts of your set up because it’s what gets you your kill and brings the fish in. A heavy fiberglass arrow without feathers or vanes work best.

Bowfishing is slightly different then regular hunting, so be prepared to miss a lot and don’t get down on yourself. As with any other hunting trip, aiming is key to bringing in your prize. However, because you are now shooting into water, light refraction plays a big role in aiming. It makes judging depth and precise aiming particularly difficult. A good rule of thumb is to aim lower than you would typically, about 6 inches below your target to be precise. The deeper the fish, the lower you want to aim. When bowfishing during the day, polarized glasses can significantly help improve your aiming tactics. You can also practice by shooting smaller targets in the yard such as water bottles or soda cans. Technique still applies for bowfising, so it is important to keep it consistent when it comes to an anchor point and release.

The most important thing when you start bowfishing is keeping up with the regulations of the area you are fishing in. Check local regulations to see where it is legal and whether you need a fishing license or a small game hunting license. Next check what types of fish you are allowed to bowfish. This typically includes invasive species and in some areas catfish, redfish, stingray and tilapia.

Bowfishing during the day may be ideal, but bowfishing at night has become increasingly more popular. If you plan on shooting at night, then consider shooting from a boat that can have mountable lights secured out of the way. On the shore, you may need some additional help to hold a light with wide beams to get a clear shot at the water. If you’re fishing on the shallows without a boat it is a good idea to wade banks of rivers and creeks, but become familiar with the area and its hotspots for the particular fish you’re looking for.

Finally, many fish that are targeted in bowfishing are typically great fish to eat. Research the fish you’ll be hunting for, and learn the best cleaning and cooking practice for that particular fish.

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