Bowfishing is a method of fishing that uses specialized archery equipment to shoot and retrieve fish. Fish are shot with a barbed arrow that is attached with special line to a reel mounted on the bow. Some freshwater species commonly bowfished include common carp, grass carp, bighead carp, alligator gar, and paddlefish. In saltwater, rays and sharks are regularly pursued.



Bows are usually very simple. Most do not have any sights and aiming is just judging right down the arrow. There are a couple types of rests including the hook and roller rest. Most bows have little to no let off and not that much draw weight. These all differs in what one has available and personal preference.


Bowfishing arrows are considerably heavier and stronger than arrows used in other types of archery and are most commonly constructed of five-sixteenth inch fiberglass, but solid aluminum, carbon fiber, and carbon fiber reinforced fiberglass are also used. Bowfishing arrows generally lack fletching, as it can cause the arrow to flair to one side or another underwater and they are not required at the relatively short ranges associated with bowfishing. Line is attached to the arrow by tying to a hole in the arrow shaft or through the use of a slide system.


Bowfishing line is often made from braided nylon, Dacron, or Spectra. Commonly used line weights range from eighty to four-hundred pound test, with six-hundred being used when bowfishing for alligators. Line color is normally either lime green, white, or neon orange.


Three types of reels are commonly used in bowfishing: Hand-wrap, spincast, and retriever. Hand-wrap reels are the simplest reels; they consist of a circular spool that line is wrapped onto by hand and then secured in a line holding slot. When the arrow is shot the line comes free from the line holder and feeds off the spool. Fish are fought by pulling the line in hand over hand; hand-wrap reels are the least effective at fighting arrowed fish, but they can be used in conjunction with a float system to shoot and fight large trophy fish. Retriever reels have a "bottle" which holds the line in place. When shot the line comes out either until the shot goes too far and the line runs out or the shooter pushes down a stopping device which can be used to keep a fish from traveling out too far. Some retriever reels have slots cut in them and are known as slotted retriever reels. They are more commonly used for alligator, alligator gar, shark and other big game that will take more time to chase down than smaller game fish.


One of the keys to bowfishing is having a good visual of your target. In order to see the fish in the water on a sunny day, polarized sun glasses are a big help. They cut the glare on top of the water so it makes it easier to see what is below the waters surface. Different tints and lens color make a difference in the color of water you are fishing in from darker brown to clearer blue and green. This all can make the biggest difference in seeing to shoot. At night though they clearly are not necessary in that a light is used to see through the water.


Although bowfishing can be done from the shore, bowfishers most often shoot from boats. Flat bottom "john boats" and canoes are used in areas of low water, as they have less draw, but are unsuitable for open water. Larger boats can accommodate multiples shooters. Many of these boats are highly customized specifically for bowfishing, with raised shooting platforms, and generators to provide electrical power to multiple lights for bowfishing at night. Many also incorporate some type of fan propulsion for operating in very shallow waters. The fan and motor are generally mounted on a raised platform at the stern.


Along with fishing from boats and off the shore, wading and shooting is also effective as long as you don't mind getting wet. Wading in rivers allows the shooter to get up close to the fish they are after if the shooter is sneaky. If you are keeping the fish you shoot while you are wading, a stringer helps and you can just tie it to a belt loop and keep fishing. Standing on large rocks in shallower parts of a river and getting a better view higher out of the water is another technique. Going from rock to rock in a river with two shooters gets the fish moving if they aren't active at the moment. It is sort of like pushing the fish to the other shooter while one shooter is wading the other is stationary on a rock. Shooting out of treestands close to a rivers edge is also a technique that allows the shooter to get a better visual of the whole river and a better view of the fish. Mainly all of these river techniques work best for carp or catfish depending on where you are.

Aiming Low

With all the techniques that there can be, knowing where to aim on a fish can be one of the most difficult things to get used to in bowfishing. Due to the refraction of the water and how it kind of bends objects in the water, aiming right for your target under water usually results in a miss. Aiming below your target under water compensates for your arrow rising when it hits the water. Depth and distance of the target also change how far below the fish you have to aim.

Targeted species




External links

Search another word or see john-boaton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature