What is Bowfishing?
As you might have guessed, bowfishing is hunting fish using a bow and arrow. Sounds simple enough, right? Perhaps, but bowfishing comes with a few twists here and there. At first glance, bowfishing is almost the same as bowhunting, but there are a few key differences.
Bowfishing targets are typically much, much, closer than the ones you’d find in the woods. With no need for long-range shooting skills, beginners find it very easy to get into the sport. Not only that, the close quarter shooting takes away much of the need for specialized equipment, too.
Still, that doesn’t mean that bowfishing doesn’t have its own nuances.
Where can you bowfish?
Bowfishing can take place in a variety of waters, as long as they’re shallow and reasonably transparent. From lakes and reservoirs, to rivers and streams, you can bowfish pretty much in any type of freshwater. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give the old bow and arrow a try in saltwater, as well. Shallow flats, estuaries and bays can be a great place to shoot ‘em up.
What can you catch?
– In freshwater, bowfishers typically start their “careers” hunting Carp. From Common Carp, through Bighead, to Grass Carp, newbies will have their work cut out for them. Garfish are another freshwater staple. Shortnose, Longnose, Spotted and Alligator Gar are all popular catches, and are legal for bowfishing in most states.
– In saltwater, bowfishers can target some truly exciting nearshore species. Flounder is the obvious choice for most people, but you can also target Sheepshead and even smaller Sharks!
How to Bowfish
Bowfishing is almost exclusively done at close range, and in shallow waters. The thing is, fish that reside in such waters tend to spook very easily. This is why slipping into your target’s quarter unnoticed is extremely important. This is especially true if you’re fishing from the shore or wading.
Thankfully, with a few cues in mind, you can creep up to the most wary of critters.
– If you’re moving in from the shore, move slowly and watch out for any twigs or branches on the ground, or anything else that might make a sound if you step on it.
– Avoid casting a shadow over the fish you’re trying to catch.
– If you’re wading or moving in on a vessel, try not to stir the water too much.
– If possible, make your approach from upwind.
Water is denser than air, and because of that, light travels through it differently. When light waves hit the water, they refract (or bend). In practice, this means that any underwater object you’re looking at is not actually where it appears to be. It’s lower.
To hit your target, you’ll need to aim below it, and probably more than your instinct will tell you. Bowfishers have a saying “aim low, then aim lower”. It won’t take long for you to realize how true this is. Knowing just how low you should aim will come with experience. Still, there are a couple of rules to help you start out.
– Aiming 6 inches lower. This is a simple but effective cue, particularly useful for beginners.
– The 10–4 rule. Slightly more advanced, this rule says that you should aim four inches low for every ten feet of distance, to hit a fish that’s a foot underwater. If the distance doubles or the fish is twice as deep in the water, aim twice as low.
Bowfishing is one of the most addictive ways to catch fish, period. It’s easy to learn, and better yet, you can find a good spot almost anywhere in the country. It’s one of the few fishing techniques that allows you to catch a tasty dinner, help the environment, and have loads of fun doing it!
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