Bowfishing is a great cure for the summertime blues. Abundant carp are the mainstay, though suckers, gar, buffalo, or shad may provide a fix. Finding productive water is relatively easy. From storm drains to reservoirs, non-game fish are found nearly everywhere. Bowfishing can keep shooting eyes sharp and do local game fish a favor by thinning invasive competition.
Getting started is easy. First, find a place with available “trash fish.” Check regulations to confirm what species are legal, then wade right in. Worn-out sneakers, jeans or cut-offs, polarized sunglasses, and sunscreen are standard uniform. The polarized sunglasses will cut surface glare and help you see submerged targets.
You’ll also need an old bow you don’t mind getting wet and muddy. A pawn shop or eBay recurve or smooth-drawing compound is best for quick, “from-the-hip” shooting. Anything pulling from 45 to 50 pounds is perfect.
Next you’ll want a bowfishing reel equipped with stout cord, heavyweight arrow, and barbed point. Reels allow shooting into deep water and easy arrow retrieval. Get heavy, solid fiberglass fish arrows made to penetrate deep water and scaled, bony fish. A barbed point keeps fish on the arrow after a hit.
Basic drum reels screw into standard stabilizer mounts or wear anchoring feet duct-taped into place. Drums are economical, though they require hand-winding the retrieval line. Close-faced spinning reels attached to reel seats (screwed into stabilizer taps) make follow-up shots faster. Just remember to press the release button before each shot.
Finally, AMS Retriever Reels neatly stack line into a bottle. Depress a spring-loaded lever to roller-feed the line. When you’re ready to shoot, simply draw back and let’er rip—no buttons, no problems. The reel mounts via standard sight taps on aluminum bow risers (strap-on mounts also available).
Solid fiberglass fish arrows are affordable and come in a wide variety of bright colors, while barbed fish points come in as many models as bowhunting broadheads. Quality varies greatly. Budget-priced heads normally mean reversing barbs is trickier, making fish removal trickier, and they are sometimes less durable. If you bowfish only occasionally, or in waters with soft bottoms, they should work fine. If you do enough shooting that removing fish becomes tedious, or if you are shooting in punishing areas with copious rock or stumps, a sturdier point is in order. These include instantly reversible barbs and more sturdy construction, but naturally they cost more.
One more item worth mentioning, and something you shouldn’t shoot fish without, is a Safety Slide system. These include a line-carrying bushing riding smoothly along the shaft, stopped by the point and a rear stopper assembly. These keep retrieval line safely out of the way while drawing, zipping back to facilitate straight flight following release. To tie off directly to a shaft end invites tangles and dangerous arrow bounce-back.
Now all you have to remember is to aim low when a fish ghosts into view, as a prism effect (refraction) will make objects appear higher in the water than they actually are. The degree of refraction depends on water depth and shot angle. Experience is the best teacher.
I can think of few more entertaining ways to spend the hot days of summer than standing knee-deep in cool water, pursuing hot bowfishing action.