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Bow Fishing

By Steve Hall

Hunting plus fishing  equals an outdoor adventure that offers plenty of excitement.

Bow fishing combines the stealth and shooting skills of a bow hunter with an angler’s knowledge of fish habitat and behavior. Beginners should start with a licensed guide to learn about the specific species allowable (nongame fish only), proper equipment and methods.

“The fish we go after include many gar species, carp and buffalo,” says Marty McIntyre, a guide with Garquest, who also teaches bow fishing at Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops. (Other nongame fish include coastal species such as flounder and black drum.)

Two differences between bow fishing and pole fishing: proper identification of a fish (and size, if length limits apply) is done before taking a shot, and there is no catch-and-release. As with game species, nongame fish must be properly consumed or used as bait.

Most sporting goods stores carry the needed gear, but archery shops will carry more equipment and offer proper setup.

Bow fishing requires a fishing license. To hunt turtles or frogs, a hunting license is required. Wear a life jacket and study your Outdoor Annual for regulations.

bow fishing

Gear Up

  • Bow: Standard archery equipment like recurve or compound bows, 50 pounds or less (longbows and crossbows are legal). The bow should be comfortable and easy to pull back, hold and release.
  • Arrow: Typically solid, fiberglass construction, 33 inches long; some prefer mixed aluminum or carbon/fiberglass and shorter arrows. Sliding rings or holes drilled into the arrow shaft affix the line to the reel.
  • Tips: Tips are steel or alloy field points with two barbs, jutting outward and downward from the point so the fish can’t slide off the shaft.
  • Reel/Line: Styles include “bottle” retrievers, spin-cast reels and “wrap” reels. Line is usually braided nylon, 200-pound for the retriever and 150-pound for the spin-cast reel.
  • Floating Craft: Usually pontoons or modified flat-bottom boats affixed with rails, lights, platforms and other modifications for a comfortable, sturdy and safe shooting stance.
  • Shoreline Fishing: Consider proper waders and/or footwear for wading in muddy, reedy shallows of lakes, streams or bays.
  • Accessories: Safety items, pliers, grips, coolers/containers for fish, fillet/fish knives, lights for night fishing, camera, mosquito repellent, sun protection and adequate clothing.

More Information

  • Texas Fishing Regulations
  • Texas Bow Fishing Association
  • Bow Fishing Association of America
  • Garquest

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