Bowfishing offers fun way to stay in practice during off-season

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Bryan Hughes, owner of Blackwater Outdoors, and Scott Jennings heft the current world record grass carp taken with archery tackle. The Guntersville Lake giant weighed 92 pounds when certified.
Photo by Bryan Hughes

More bowhunters are catching on to the exciting sport of bowfishing, and are pulling their tackle out of storage to get ready.

Unlike traditional bowhunting, bowfishing is often a fast and furious sport requiring quick shooting reflexes. All that is needed for the sport is a bow with a draw weight of at least 45 pounds, a fiberglass fishing arrow, and some type of bowfishing reel.

Expert bowfishermen say that a bow pulling at least 55 pounds would be better if going after some of the big carp found in area lakes and rivers. Some of the exotic carp species grow to more than 90 pounds.

Though wading the shallows can be successful, a small wide-draft boat for stability is a good option. A push pole or trolling motor is a basic mode of propulsion, but more serious bowfishermen outfit boats with large fans to push their boats across shallow-water areas.

When setting up a bow for fishing, it is best to use solid fiberglass arrows without any fletching. Fish points are heavy, barbed metal heads that penetrate well and hold the fish securely during the fight. Heavy, braided 200-pound-test line attaches the arrow to a bow-mounted reel.

Rough fish, such as carp, gar, bowfin, and shad are primary targets. Some states allow catfish to be taken by bowfishing tackle, but regulations must be consulted to stay within legal guidelines.

To give an idea of how large some of the fish encountered grow, Bryan Hughes and Scott Jennings, both from north Alabama, shot and landed a grass carp that weighed 93.3 pounds on Lake Guntersville in 2015. This fish surpassed the Bowfishing Association of American world record for the species, and currently holds the top spot.