Bowfishing is the new fad that is taking the fishing world by storm. Somewhere an avid bowman, finding nothing in the skies to target, looked at the water, saw a fish and shot it. That’s how the bowfishing craze started.
If bowfishing during the daytime wasn’t challenging enough, night bowfishing started to attract crowds of enthusiasts who find it easy to draw their target with the light. But while the fish draw to the light like a moth to a candle, getting them with your bow isn’t that easy. Both the angle of shooting and distance from the target make this a practice in skill like no other.
It’s a complicated sport and demands a lot from the bowfisher. In this article we cover the most important aspects of this challenging adventure and all you need to know to become a good bowfisher who dines on fresh fish every evening.
Understand The Bowfishing Places
Bowfishing takes the uncertainty and element of chance out of fishing altogether. Instead of throwing your line in the water and hoping a fish takes the bait so to speak, you’re targeting the fish that you see with your own eyes. From then on out, it all comes down to your skill as well as your adherence to the laws of physics.
Don’t panic. We’re not going to dig into the theory or relativity or anything. Simply put, you need to study your environment the same way a golfer gets a feel for the direction and speed of the wind before they take the shot. Here too you need to take into consideration not just the speed of the wind but the strength of the current as well.
Bowfishing involves shooting at targets that are always on the move and rarely stop to look around. If you have aimed a weapon at a moving target before you know how hard it is to get them. You should try it playing any shooter video game and see how difficult it is.
Something else to understand is your environment. Are you standing on high grounds? Is the ground under your feet solid. Are your feet firm on the ground? Or are you prone to slip mid aim? You need to have a high vantage point, not too high it makes it hard to see the target or get a good aim, but not too close to the water either where your movement might spook the fish.
The weather is another element to watch out for. It can be on your side or it may work against you. Make sure you check the weather forecast on your phone before you leave home. Rain for example or storms are not ideal for bowfishing. Imagine you’re a fish swimming near the surface and getting hammered with rainfall. You’ll dive deep away from the annoying surface.
Know The Water
Just as the environment, location, and weather are important factors to consider when you’re choosing the right spot to bowfish, knowing the water is just as important as well. If all the waterways look the same to you and a pond is very much similar to a creek in your book, you need to educate yourself a little more.
We already mentioned how the speed and strength of the current can be the difference between going home with an empty bag or one loaded with various fresh fish. This is only one part of it. Incidentally, if you’re bowfishing in a pond, the current won’t play a great role the same way it does if you’re straddling a narrow and deep stream or creek where the fish swim faster than the water.
Water depth is another consideration. In deep water, the chances of the fish coming to the surface even at night are slim. Not to mention that the water depth plays havoc with the visuals especially in the dark. In general, a fish in a deep lake or pond is harder to aim at and catch than one swimming in relatively shallow waters.
Plants and rocks in the water help you a lot. They tend to slow down the fish and even bring them to a standstill. Fish tend to lurk around rocks and plants in the water waiting for a prey or simply to feed. This makes them easier to shoot. You have more time to get your bearings, take aim, adjust your stance, and watch for the wind speed and direction before you release the arrow.
Different fish live in different waters. Some fish are harder to catch than others. So knowing which fish are easier to catch (more on that later) and where to find these fish is your first step towards becoming a successful bowfisher.
Naturally you’re not going to catch the fish with your bare hands. You need equipment. Not just the bow, but also you need other gear such as light sources as well. This is bowfishing at night and you’ll need light to draw the fish and see what you’re shooting as well.
So the first thing you need to carry is the bow and arrows. The arrows you use for fishing are not the same as the ones you go hunting for birds or game with. Bow hunting arrows are thick and heavy compared to the ones that need to pierce the surface of the water. So choose the right arrows for bowfishing to have a high rate of success with marine life.
Lights are essential for nightly bowfishing. You would want a source of light that casts a big beam on a large area of the water. Now remember that the high wattage of the lights is impacted by the visibility levels in the water. Clear waters allow light to penetrate to great depths and the opposite is true. If the fish can’t see the light they won’t come up to the surface.
Also make sure you pack your line and reel. Arrows are in short supply and even if you hit the mark, there’s no way for you to retrieve the arrow with the fish at the end of it without a line. The line is attached to the end of the arrow and you use it to reel the fish and the arrow back.
What Kind of Fish are Easy to Catch At Night
Let’s get one thing out of the way, no fish no matter how fat and lazy likes to be caught or impaled with an arrow. So you need to assume that every fish you go after in your nightly adventures will try to outrun you and hide from your predator eyes.
But while some fish will give up quickly and let you reel them in without incident, others would put in a good fight and thrash around trying to break free. Notable examples of the fighting fish species are the alligator gar. This is one fish that will wear you out before you can finally haul it into the boat. So you really need to be fit and ready to put in the effort if you’re going after this species.
Other fish species aren’t that feisty and will not require much hauling on your side. Look for dogfish, stingrays and sharks in saltwater. Stingrays are good targets for beginners because they’re not particularly fast swimmers and they offer a bigger target than other fish.
For fresh water fish, you can go after carp, perch, gar, and catfish. Some bowfishers like to target eels as well. But those are usually hard to aim and kill because of their slim body and their ability to slither into the darkness before you have time to take aim.
Aiming And Shooting Tips At Night
I think we can all agree that bowfishing is a different ball game altogether. Unlike spearfishing where you get closer to the fish you target, you don’t have this luxury with bowfishing. There’s a distance between you and the target and you both exist in different worlds. Here are a few tips to get you started and help you take your game to the next level.
- Choose clear waters where visibility is high.
- Your light source should cover a wide area of the water.
- To have a larger target, don’t get too close to the fish. Keep a distance to get a better angle.
- Make sure you’re using light and slender arrows specifically for fishing in water not for hunting.
- The arrows you use for bowfishing don’t need fletchers since that can thwart your aim and divert the arrow when it hits the water.
- Use a line and reel for your arrows. Once the arrow leaves the bow the only way to get it back with or without the fish is using a line.
- Light refraction is a real thing. It can show the fish not in the actual location you aim at. So take that into consideration when you aim.
Bowfishing At Night In The US
From rivers to lakes and ponds, there are many places where you can enjoy bowfishing at night. Here are some of these places.
The Trinity River in Texas is home to some really large alligator gar. Keep in mind that this is a feisty fish and the bigger it gets the bigger the fight it puts. Make sure you have the right arrows for this aggressive fish because hauling one in is always a battle. Bowfin, drum, carp, and buffalo are also common in this river.
The Bull Shoals Lake is a place not to miss if you’re serious about our bowfishing at night. Bass and walleye roam these waters free from interference from humans or predators. You’ll also find catfish, gar, and carp plentiful. Check the local regulations for fishing permits and the season for fishing in Arkansas.
The Mississippi River is undoubtedly one of the best places to go bowfishing. The southern parts of the river are the best for night fishing. Common fish species include paddlefish, carp, Asian carp, buffalo, drum, and of course alligator gar. You’ll usually find this last one near salt water but the rest of the species on the list are available everywhere.
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