Bowfishing — Today for Fun, Tomorrow Perhaps Survival…

By Dave Dolbee published on in Archery, Camping & Survival, General

Love to fish? Love archery? Looking for some nonstop action on the cheap?

Even if you said no, bowfishing could still be for you.  Best of all, bowfishing is great for the environment and a great survival skill.

For bowfishing, finding game is easy. I am sure that after a couple of phone calls you can easily find carp in your local area. Carp are highly adaptable, very invasive, prolific and extremely destructive to local eco systems. As a result shooting a bucket full is not only fun, its good for the local environment.

Archer holding up a carp shot with a bow while bowfishing

There’s nothing better on a hot day than grabbing your bow and shooting fish—however, these fish won’t be as easy as ones in a barrel.

However, just because it’s good for the ecosystem may not be enough of a reason to go on a fish-shooting spree. I still want to get the most from what Mother Nature has provided. From my extremely limited experience, carp does not make great table fare. I have heard of a few recipes and certain ethnicities that claim carp makes for great eats, but I think I will stick to tuna and venison.

That being said, I do know of a couple other great uses for carp. Check your area for a local zoo or wildlife rescue center. Both have animals needing more in their diets than you can get out of a can. Donations can normally be easily coordinated and are gratefully accepted. The second is bait. Not for more fishing, I am talking predators. Let the carp ripen for a day in the sun and then take it to your favorite coyote or bobcat spot. Combined (where legal of course) with a decent call, you’ll pull ‘em in on a string. Be sure to leave any leftovers to the scavengers and complete the circle.

Going Bowfishing

Depending on the species, and the archer’s preference, you can accomplish bowfishing from a boat or simply in an old pair of sneakers and shorts. I must admit, there is something special about stalking fish. You move slowly though the murky water—similar to still hunting a buck. Your head is on a slow swivel as you look for a ripple in the water, the wiggle of plant, or the shallow shadow of a carp. A fast, deliberate and accurate shot will be rewarded.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out the obvious, but bowfishing is not a catch-and-release sport. Check your local laws for licensing requirements, but game fish are normally taboo. That means it is illegal to pop a nice trout or bass with your bow. As with all types of shooting… be certain of your target before the shot.

Of course in a true survival situation, all bets are off. Game fish would suddenly be on the menu and so would carp so you want to make a trial run at a recipe.

Carp spawn once it warms up, so some time around April and into June is normally prime time. During breeding, the male pushes the female to the surface making an easy shot at either one. About the best advice I can give is to aim low on the rest.

Flying fish

The action isn’t always this hot, but can you imagine the feeling of a bow in your hand and this in front of you?
~ Photo courtesy of Pat Moses

How low depends on the amount of water refraction, which makes the fish look higher than it is in reality. After the first few shots (substitute misses followed by colorful metaphors) you’ll get the hang of it.

For the ultimate bowfishing challenge, you are going to have to head to the Midwest for Asian carp also known as flying fish. The right harmonics from the boat’s motor get the fish jumping—often several feet in the air. The game is to pick-off the fish mid-air. Just to be clear, you will be standing on a moving boat, waiting for a fish to jump, so you can launch an arrow at it. Trust me, it sounds complicated but is so fun and addictive it should be outlawed.

Looking for Something Bigger?

Even if flying fish are not in your area or on your radar, slogging through the water stalking a fish is a cheap way to spend some time in the sun and a great way to improve your archery skills. For those who desire something a bit bigger and can bite back, make sure you get enough sleep because gators typically come out at night.

A bow set up with the right tackle makes chasing gators an event you’ll not soon forget, but that is a tale for another day.

Check back for a follow-up article detailing the required gear to go bowfishing soon. Have you ever tried bowfishing? If not, would you go if invited? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (2)

  • Juan Vasallo

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    I would like to see all the propaganda against stop as soon as possible

    Reply

  • Scott

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    My college roommate and I used go out during days when classes got out early. The late spring was the best time for us back in Indiana, right around our midterms. We’d usually wade in with shoes, but crouching on rocks seemed to be the best technique. By standing on a rock you get a better sight range and you don’t risk muddying the water too much. Neither of us were too good at it, but it was still a good way to relieve the stress of classes and work, while still having a bit of fun out in nature. Another good pro tip is to keep your back to the sun. That way you can shoot into your shadow and you won’t have to try to squint through the glare coming off the water.

    Reply

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