If you thought sitting out on a boat with a rod and reel made for a fun morning, wait till you see what you can do with a bow and arrow. Many view it as a sport, and some think of it as simply a unique way to catch fish.
Bowfishing is exactly what it sounds like. You catch fish with a bowfishing arrow and a reel attached to the bow. The arrow is attached to the string, which runs to a traditional reel with a spool and handle, just like you would find on a regular reel and rod setup.
You don’t use a regular bow, though you could modify a hunting bow to reel in fish. A bowfishing bow and a bowfishing arrow are what you need, and they mostly look like regular bows and arrows, with the proper modifications.
Complete Guide to Bowfishing
What Material are Bowfishing Arrows Made From
For the most part, a bowfishing arrow is made much the same way as a traditional arrow. It has a point, a nock, and a shaft. The biggest choice you have to make when choosing a bowfishing arrow is the material it’s constructed with.
- Bowfishing arrow shaft: Includes carbon composite, fiberglass, stainless steel, and fiberglass combinations, hybrids, and carbon materials
- Bowfishing arrow nock: usually made of strong plastic and simply connects the arrow to the string
- Bowfishing arrow point: The most common point is simple in construction, made of stainless steel, and has two spring blades that pop out after penetration.
These are beginner arrows. They’re strong but easy to damage and are the recommended bowfishing arrows for beginners. They’re also pretty cost-effective.
A hybrid arrow is generally a combination of any two of the materials used in bowfishing arrow manufacturing. Hybrid arrows have a large price disparity and are generally expensive. The most common combinations are fiberglass and steel or carbon composite.
The most costly of the bunch, carbon arrows have the best precision out of the other arrows. They are very lightweight, making them much faster, especially when penetrating the water and the fish.
Types of Arrow Points for Bowfishing
There are several types of arrow points, most of which serve the same basic function of penetration, followed by spring-activated barbs that keep the arrow from sliding back out of the fish.
Some have barbs that aren’t spring-released. They are typically streamlined with the shape of the point, but they widen the impact and damage area when they pass through the fish. The AMS Bowfishing Chaos FX Point is a prime example of one of these.
For heavier and softer fish, the Fishing Gear Sullivan Innerloc 3-Barb Grapple Point is an excellent choice, with three retractable barbs that are spring-activated following penetration.
All bowfishing arrow points have some sort of barb mechanism on the end of them. Otherwise, the fish would just slide right off the arrow, especially if it’s moving around a lot. However, four levels differentiate the type of barbs and how they are designed.
- Level 1: Basic barb and tip
- Level 2: Tougher design with slightly larger barbs for bigger fish
- Level 3: Designed for medium to large fish and feature reversible barbs
- Level 4: Designed for maximum penetration power, with multiple large barbs
Experience will help you determine which arrow point level is perfect for you and the type of fish you’re trying to catch.
Where to aim when bowfishing
Shooting a fish with an arrow is not the same as shooting a buck. For one, you have to deal with the inherent unpredictability of fish. For two, you have to deal with the deceptive nature of what you see in the water and how the refraction will affect your aim.
It’s almost an instinctive thing, rather than precision aiming. If you’ve ever been flounder gigging before, you’ll have an idea what it’s like. In very shallow water, you have to aim about 3” to 4” below the fish because fish appear to be closer to the surface than they really are.
Your distance from the fish is a huge factor. The general rule of thumb is to aim four inches below the fish for every ten inches between yourself and the fish. You also have to add inches for how deep the fish is. Add three inches for every foot of depth.
If you are ten feet away and you determine the fish is two feet deep, that’s four inches for the distance between you and six inches applied to the depth. That’s a total of ten inches below the fish.
Is Bowfishing Legal in the US
Bowfishing is legal for non-game fish in all 50 states, with the possible exception of Hawaii because the law is simply unclear there. Bowhunting is legal for very specific game fish in Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico.
If you are in one of those four states, be sure to check with your local game and wildlife to determine what gamefish are legal and which ones aren’t before you head out.
Can you bowfish with a regular bow
You can use any bow for bowfishing, within reason. If you decide you want to use a standard hunting bow for bowfishing, you will have to modify it somewhat. There are a few changes you will have to make.
- Your bow will need a lower let-off
- A bowfishing reel attachment
- A bowfishing arrow rest
- Bowfishing arrows only
- A 30lb to 50lb draw weight
If you can make those kinds of modifications to your standard bow, you’re all set. If you can’t, you’ll have to purchase a bowfishing bow separately. For the most part, you should be able to make the correct changes on your bow, and the draw weight isn’t necessarily a make-or-break thing.
Bowfishing doesn’t enjoy the popularity bow hunting and standard fishing do, and maybe it never will. However, there is little doubt that it’s growing in popularity right now. It’s a much more difficult sport than you might think, especially considering the aiming changes you will have to make.
The natural, aiming tricks of the trade you have learned all your life go right out the window. It’s almost entirely unnecessary to have an aiming device on your bow. Its only real contribution is to keep you in a straight, vertical line with the fish because you’ll be aiming much lower.
If you’ve ever considered bowfishing, now may be the time to start an all-new setup on your bow. Perhaps you have a bow sitting unused in the closet all these years, and you’ve just found it a new lease on life.
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