Bowfishing Guide 2022 ( Beginners instructions )

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bowfishing guide

Bowfishing is an exciting pastime activity that combines two skills – fishing and archery.

Contrary to popular belief it’s not difficult to master, though it takes time.

Another popular misconception among novice anglers is that bowfishing is an expensive sport.

In reality, it isn’t. You won’t have to break the bank to enjoy this hobby.

This article offers a comprehensive guide for people who want to get started with bowfishing.

Facts About Bowfishing

Before you know more about the practice, here are some facts about bowfishing.

Equipment is Inexpensive

As mentioned above, many people wrongly believe that bowfishing equipment is expensive.

This isn’t true, as you can get a full set for less than $100.

If you take time and browse through sites like eBay and Craigslist or visit a nearby pawn shop, you can come across much cheaper used sets.

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Whatever you do, don’t skimp on your budget when shopping for arrows and tips.

It’s worth noting that this are vital to striking your target – if they aren’t up to standard, your shots can’t be clean.

It Takes Time

It takes time to master the art of bowfishing. Ensure that you allocate adequate time for your training.

Most beginners shoot a few fish on their first lessons, so don’t get discouraged. Some even go home empty-handed.

Practice is crucial if you want to hone your skills. When there’s no fish, put targets in the water and shoot them instead.

This helps in improving your aim, as you learn how to deal with the interference caused by refraction.

Failure is Inevitable

Even the most skillful archers don’t have a perfect hit rate. For this reason, you shouldn’t get disappointed when you miss.

Aiming is the most challenging aspect of bowfishing. This is mostly due to refraction, waves, and other factors.

Fortunately, investing in a pair of polarized sunglasses can help you deal with this challenge.

You can also improve your accuracy by practicing with small targets on your backyard.

Bowfishing Essentials

The following are the items you need to start bowfishing.

Fishing License

Most local authorities require you to have a valid fishing license before you cast your line and rods in waters within their jurisdiction.

Although the majority of states allow you to bowfish with a regular permit, some need you to apply for a modified version that allows hunting. 

It’s crucial to check the local regulations concerning bowfishing.

Generally, most authorities allow the harvesting of invasive species.

That said, some permit the capturing of tilapia, stringray, redfish, and catfish.

Ensure that the area you intend to bowfish in is listed by the relevant authorities.

 This is because some states don’t authorize bowfishing in some areas where fishing with rods and reels is permitted.

Know your laws and always respect other anglers.

Lastly, always carry your license on every fishing trip.

Remember to keep an electronic copy in your phone or tablet.


Bowfishing is impossible if you don’t have a bow.

When purchasing this equipment, always prioritize quality and comfort over other aspects.

Don’t waste money on an expensive model without the right ergonomics.

You can repurpose an old hunting bow and achieve remarkable success.

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Focus on the right draw-weight when shopping for a bow.

This ensures that you don’t strain or tire quickly when shooting.

Bows with a draw-weight range between 25 and 45 lbs. are appropriate for most anglers.

It’s advisable to carry several bows when going on a fishing trip.

Because it is a backup, your second bow must not be new – the most important thing is that it should be functional.


When it comes to arrows, you need special models if you want to engage in bowfishing.

They must have enough density to enable them to travel through water. For this reason, they are usually made of heavy materials. 

Another peculiarity of bowfishing arrows is that they don’t have fletching.

These are the feathers and vanes found at the tail of regular archery arrows.

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Instead, they have a point that attaches to the fishing line.

The tips of bowfishing arrows have barbs that make them stick to the fish. 

Arrows come with or without points. While the former are more suited to beginners, arrows without points give experienced anglers a freedom of choice.

Arrow Rest

You’ll need to position your arrow correctly if you want to get a clean shot at your target.

All rests have a groove that supports the arrow, though they come in different styles.

Whichever you choose, make sure that it doesn’t obstruct your view when shooting.

Arrow rests are available for both left-handed and right-handed anglers.

Remember this before making a purchase to avoid having to stand in awkward positions when fishing.

Reel and Lines

After you shoot your target, you’ll require a functional reel and line to haul it onto the boat.

The most significant difference between a standard fishing reel and a bowfishing reel is the speed at which you cast the line into the water.

Specifically, arrows travel much faster.

The two types of bowfishing reels are bottle-type reels and spinning reels.

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Regardless of your choice, ensure that it doesn’t tangle or get obstructed when you take a shot.

If this happens, the arrow might snap back and cause injuries to the angler or others in the fishing boat.

Always use a line that is robust enough to haul the fish you’re planning to catch. 


If you’re going on day fishing trip, ensure that you wear a hat and suntan lotion to prevent sunburn.

You must also carry a pair of polarized sunglasses to help with refraction and improve your aim.

For night bowfishing expeditions, wear a lightweight shirt and apply bug spray to keep away flying insects.

More importantly, carry flashlights or mount lanterns onto your fishing boat to improve visibility. In this regard, halogen lamps are the best bet.

Additionally, gloves can help reduce the strain caused by repeatedly pulling the string on your bow.

This is especially useful if you plan to bowfish throughout the day.

How to Bowfish

As mentioned repetitively in this article, bowfishing isn’t a difficult.

With time, you can become a master of this exciting activity.

The most crucial qualities you’ll want to learn are stealth and aiming.


Because it’s hard to see clearly in the deep seas, most of bowfishing activities occur on shallow waters.

The primary challenge with this is that the fish that reside in these locations can spot you easily, unless you are stealthy. 

Here are some few tips you can employ to avoid spooking the fish.

  • Approach your target from the upwind side – this reduces the chances of the fish ‘hearing’ you since the wind is already making noise.
  • Avoid casting a shadow over your target – a change in light levels can make them panic and start moving.
  • Avoid stepping on leaves, twigs and other things that can make noise if you’re on foot. If you’re on a boat, avoid stirring the water too much.


Unlike other forms of fishing, you don’t use sights to improve your accuracy when bowfishing.

Instead, you rely on your instincts, and this grows with experience.

After several attempts, you’ll learn how to deal with refraction, as well as how to estimate the fish’s depth and distance from you.

Best Bowfishing Lights

Ideally, you should be 10 to 15 feet from your target, and shoot six inches below it to make up for the light refraction. 

You can improve your aiming skills using a submerged plastic bottle.

All you’ll need is the bottle, your bowfishing gear and a body of water.

After several practice sessions, you’ll become as good as anyone.

What’s the Right Time for Bowfishing?

The best time to go bowfishing is during summer because visibility is at its peak and you can fish at any time of the day.

That said, fish tend to be most active at dawn and dusk.

To increase your chances of getting a big haul, set sail when the skies are clear and there are no winds.

You can also go bowfishing when it’s dark. However, you’ll need flashlights or mounted lights to increase visibility.

If you have money to spare, you can hire a boat with down facing lights to give you a clear view of the water.

Where to Bowfish

If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to go to a familiar water body.

This particularly applies to anglers who prefer after-dark fishing trips. 

Ensure that you know how deep a particular spot is, the amount of vegetation it has, and the speed of currents it experiences.

For instance, fish like spawning in areas with a lot of reeds and grass.

This means that bowfishing in an area with thick vegetation increases the chances of getting a big haul.

Final Words

Besides helping you get food onto your table, bowfishing is an exciting activity.

What’s more, it isn’t expensive as other water sports. It’s also versatile, as you can fish from a boat or while standing at the shore.

Lastly, always remember that arrows can cause serious injuries. Invest in the right safety equipment to avoid adverse scenarios.