Is Bowfishing Legal In The US? (With 8 States Rules)


Is Bowfishing Legal In The US? (With 8 States Rules)

Many people wonder if it’s legal to go bowfishing in the US. As we all know each state has its own rules and regulations which means that what and where to go fishing with a crossbow depends on the local rules.

In general, it is legal to bowfish in the US. That’s the short and quick answer. As we get into each state, however, this simple answer becomes more complicated than a relationship status on Facebook. You have license fees, type of fish, seasons, and certain locations and waterways that allow bowfishing.

We have a whole bunch of states to cover so let’s get right to it.

Is Bowfishing Legal in California?

California is one of the states that look favorably on bowfishing. It’s true, you can’t just go around shooting your crossbow at fish willy nilly anywhere you please. Still, the rules here are less restricted than many other states. This includes both where to fish, when to fish, and what fish to go after.

Down in San Diego, bowfishing is only allowed in these lakes:

  • El Capitan
  • Sutherland
  • Lower Otay
  • San Vicente
  • Hodges

As for the type of fish you’re allowed to bowfish, it’s only carp, I’m afraid. Out of the multitudes of fish that swarm the waters of California, San Diego allows you only to hunt carp. But that’s not the only limitation the laws here enforce on bowfishers. Here are a few more regulations to observe faithfully.

  1. Your arrow must be secured to a line.
  2. You can only go bowfishing on board a boat. You cannot bow fish from the shore, a pier, or a bridge.
  3. You cannot go bowfishing near areas where water birds nest or breed.
  4.  Bowfishing is not allowed within 100 feet of a person in the water.
  5. You need two types of permit to go bowfishing. A fishing permit and a wildlife hunting permit.
  6. You have to be 18 or above to legally bowfish in California. Otherwise you’ll need to be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is seeing a bowfishing blowout. The sport is more than just a fad as more and more people are driving to the nearest waterways to try their hands at this exciting sport. Many swear by it while others state that they’re only passing time. Either way, the state was prompted to issue new rules and regulations to control the exploding sport and preserve its fish wealth.

One of the first rules implemented was to categorize the type of fish you’re allowed to go bowfishing. In Wisconsin, it’s called the rough fish. These include smelt, shad, sea lampreys, bowfin, suckers, common carp, as well as gars. Any other fish species that don’t fall under this category are prohibited.

You also need to have a valid license to go bowfishing. In addition, bowfishing in Wisconsin is limited to certain seasons. The fishing season starts the first Saturday of May every year for most species. You can check by fish type on the official website.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Ohio?

While Ohio insists on you applying for a license before you go bowfishing in its waters, it’s one of the most permissive states as far as bowfishing is concerned. There are no particular rules regarding the type of crossbow or arrows you use. Both longbows and crossbows are allowed.

The only restrictions that apply have to do with the type of fish or marine life that you can hunt with each type. Longbows can be used to catch softshell turtles, green frogs, bullfrogs, snapping and forage fish. Crossbows are only limited to forage fish and you can’t use them to go after turtles or frogs.

Fish species that you can go after include carp, gar, drum, dogfish,buffalo suckers, suckers, as well as the frogs and turtles mentioned above. Besides longbows and crossbows you can also use compounds and recurves. There are seasons for fishing however and you’ll need to check with the local authorities for which species are allowed in which seasons.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Texas?

As big as Texas is, not all the coastal areas or waterways are open for bowfishing. It’s the Lone Star state’s way of preserving its fisheries. You need a fishing license though to go bowfishing in Texas. However if you’re under 17 or over 65 you don’t have to apply for a license. Licenses come in different packages.

  • Fresh water license.
  • Salt water license.
  • All water license.

If you go after turtles or frogs, you need a special hunting license as well. But these are not the only rules you need to adhere to when bowfishing in Texas. You can use a longbow, recurve, crossbow or a compound to hunt in the state.

The state classified the fish you can hunt with a bow as non-game fish. These include but are not limited to gar, sheepshead, mullet, and buffalo. The good news is there are no limitations on bag size or fish size when it comes to non-game fish in Texas. You can fish as many as you like and go home happy.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Louisiana?

Louisiana is one of those states that allow bowfishing. However, before you take your crossbow and go rushing to the nearest waterbody in the state to kill the first fish you see, you need to know that all types of bowfishing are monitored in this state.

One of the first things that you’re required to have in Louisiana is a permit. Without a permit you can’t go bowfishing and that’s the end of that. So how do you go about getting one? Glad you asked. There are two types of permits. One for residents and the other for tourists. Then you have fresh water fishing and saltwater fishing. Each type has its own specific permit.

The permit for freshwater fishing is called a Basic Fishing License. As for salt water, you’ll need a different permit called a Saltwater License. No surprise there. But what if you want to bowfish both in fresh and saltwater? Do you have to apply for two licenses? Not really. The Sportsman’s Paradise License is designed specifically for that purpose.

To get a license or permit you can apply at any of the local vendors or go to the official website or local offices of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in Monroe, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and Opelousas.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Florida?

Like many states blessed with both freshwater and saltwater resources, Florida requires all bowfishers regardless of the type of bow they use to apply for a fishing license that corresponds to the type of water they want to fish in. there’s a license for freshwater, another for saltwater, and the all encompassing license for all types of water.

Florida classifies the type of fish you can hunt with a bow as non-game fish. These are free to go after except for alligator gar. In Florida, you need a special scientific license to catch the alligator gar by any means. It’s a protected species and you can’t hunt it.

Saltwater fishing species that you cannot go after include

  • Billfish (all species)
  • Weakfish
  • Blue Crab
  • Manta ray
  • Bonefish
  • Stone Crab
  • Nassau grouper
  • Goliath Grouper
  • Snook
  • Sturgeon
  • Tarpon
  • Spotted seatrout
  • Red drum
  • Spotted eagle ray
  • Sharks
  • Pompano

The rest of the species are OK to use a bow on but only when the season is open.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Michigan?

Michigan doesn’t have as strict restrictions on bowfishing as other states. Of course your first destination is Lake Michigan where the fish is bountiful and you get plenty of opportunities to enjoy bowfishing. As expected conditions apply and you’ll have to know which species are protected.

You’ll need a fishing permit to use a bow of any kind in Michigan. The good news is you won’t need a special hunting permit. But you still need to get a license that corresponds to the type of water you’re targeting.

Some fish you’re not allowed to hunt include nassau grouper and goliath Grouper. The list changes and gets updated throughout the year so it’s better to check with the local regulations. It even changes from one county to the next.

Is Bowfishing Legal in Missouri?

The last state on our list is Missouri. It’s famous for a wide array of lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterways to satisfy every fisher. Missouri classifies fish as both game and non-game. Bowfishers can only hunt for non-game fish.

So what are the non-game fish according to the state of Missouri? The list includes bluegill, green sunfish, carp, carpsuckers, suckers, buffalo, drum, and gar among others. The full list is on the official website and you can check it to find which species are open at what times of the year.

And just like in Michigan, Missouri requires only a fishing license for bowfishers 18 years and older. Those under 18 don’t need a license but have to have an adult with them when they go bowfishing. There are two types of licenses. One for saltwater and the other for freshwater. Fees vary depending on whether you’re a resident or not. You can obtain a license for a day, week, 3 weeks, or the whole year.

What Fish Can You Shoot Bowfishing?

There are two types of fish that you can catch with a bow. First there’s the fresh water fish and the salt water fish. What fish you can find depends on two things. The area and the season. Some fish are seasonal and migrate so you can only find them at a certain season every year.

The most notable species that bowfishers like include Longnose Gar, Common Carp, Bigmouth Buffalo, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Tilapia, Grass carp, Freshwater Drum, River Carpsucker, Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar, Alligator Gar Paddlefish, Threadfin Shad, Smallmouth Buffalo, Catfish, Asian Snakehead, and Bowfin.

Some bowfishers also like to go after eels, bullfrogs and softshell turtles. While these are not strictly fish, some states require you to obtain a special license for hunting them. Other fish species like the alligator gar are protected in some states like Florida where you can only collect it for scientific research.

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