Brady Miller

If you want to bowhunt all year long you really have to give bowfishing a try this summer. Across the US, the rough fish spawn has passed and lots of great bowfishing opportunities were presented to many people willing to go the extra mile to add bowfishing to their yearly agenda. Bowfishing is a great way to bowhunt all year-round, and species available for bowfishing are plentiful and populations of rough fish continue to grow each year.

Bowfishing is in my blood – no doubt about it. The sights, the sounds, the friendships, the competition, the sun burns, the hum of the generator at night, and the chop of the fan cutting through the air – everything is perfect in my opinion. Since back in the day, I have always been one to take it to the extreme when it comes to bowfishing, and most of the time my competitive nature sets myself up for a great time on the water.

Friend Tim Ostlie with a winter common carp taken during single digit temperatures at night

Bowfishing is the perfect activity to get the bowhunter through those long spring and summer days. It is a sport that you can’t try just once, as you will soon feel the urge to grab your boat and bowfishing bow, and head to a local lake to chase monster rough fish! Furthermore, bowfishing is a great way to introduce your kids to the sport of bowhunting. Each day they will literally take hundreds of shots at rough fish swimming along the banks of a river or lake. This is a great way to keep them excited about bowhunting, instead of having them sit quietly in a blind all day on a cold morning waiting for deer.

Bowfishing for southern stingray

What makes bowfishing different than a lot of sports, is that you can make it as expensive, or as inexpensive as you want to. If you have never bowfished before, all you really need are four essential items to get you on the water. First off you need a bow that you don’t mind getting a bit wet and dirty. Practically any bow can work for bowfishing, whether it is a recurve, compound, crossbow, or slingshot. I suggest finding a separate bow other than the one you use for bowhunting, as this will eliminate switching your gear over, and beating up your hunting bow. I also suggest a different rest than the typical bowhunting style rests, as most are just not designed to hold up a heavy bowfishing arrow.

Second, you will need a reel to attach to your bow to bring your arrow, and fish back to you. Bowfishing reels can be as simple as a hand wrap style, or a little more advanced like a bottle reel, or a spincast reel. Each type typically will have line rated from 150-400 pound test, and usually you will want to avoid monofilament line when bowfishing, and purchase something a little more durable.

Third, you will need a bowfishing arrow capable of holding a fish after you release your arrow. They come in many different models, from the popular fiberglass, to carbon, to aluminum/fiberglass arrows and many other forms in-between. The tips on the end of the arrow come in many different styles and configurations as well, but they all have the same basic principle as far as a need to penetrate tough fish scales, and hold that fish as you reel it in.

Fourth, if you are shooting during the day, you need a pair of polarized sunglasses to help cut the glare of sunlight on the water and light refraction to aid in locating fish under the water.

Friend Tim Ostlie showing that you don’t need a boat to bowfish

A boat is not needed for bowfishing. You can be successful by wading the shore around a creek, lake or river, or walking through adjacent flooded fields. However, if you really want to see more fish, and increase your success, then a boat is something to look into. Just like bowhunting bow setups, boats that are setup for bowfishing are user specific and vary to a large degree. Most boats are simply just modified jon boats with either a push pole, trolling motor, fan propelled motor, all the way up to an airboat for the use of locating fish in shallow water. Bowfishers who shoot in the daytime, tend to build elevated platforms on the front of the boat to help aid in cutting light refractions caused by the sun, and to help see fish further from the boat before they spook. Where legal, night bowfishing is one of the best ways to bowfish. This is accomplished with the use of light fixtures mounted on the front of the boat that are powered by a small generator. Many bowfishermen will soon upgrade their boat with more specialized gear and some may seem as though they have more lights than a Wal-Mart parking lot.

The author with a 38.75 pound common carp

Bowfishing can take you many places. From the backwaters down south in search of gar, to the flooded fields in the Midwest chasing common carp, to the ocean tackling with saltwater giants, and every creek, lake, and river in-between. A lot of people even take bowfishing to the next level by shooting tournaments. They are a great way to add some competition to the already enjoyable everyday outings. Tournaments are held all across the US, and vary in their formats slightly, which helps teams compete, even if they don’t have a high-tech boat setup. These people are willing to travel long distances just to shoot a 10 hour tournament, then drive home and do it all over again a few weekends later. If that isn’t dedication to the sport, than I don’t know what is!! So if you are the bowhunter who already shoots 3D tournaments during the summer, than I’d suggest giving a few bowfishing tournaments a try.

Alongside of tournaments, you also have people who are dedicated to passing on the excitement and challenge of bowfishing and devoting a couple hours each week to help promote the sport. Whether it be sponsoring a youth event, seminar, or giving some time to help out a state or national bowfishing organization.
There is just something about standing on the front of a boat, bow in hand on a crisp calm day with friends, carefully cruising the shoreline looking for that huge carp, or the streamline gar.

The author with an alligator gar taken down south

Remember to think about what sport you are representing while you are out on your favorite lake or river chasing fish during the day or even at night, because representing this sport in a positive manner is what will help the sport grow and advance even further.

So, what are you waiting for? Give bowfishing a try this summer.

Work hard, play hard, and bowhunt even harder!

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