Getting started bowfishing can be a fun and exciting time, but you may not know where to begin in your state. You may not know the rules and regulations or where to go bowfishing. Not to worry because we put together this bowfishing guide for Arizona so that you will understand bowfishing in your state better.
Arizona Bowfishing Regulations: Is Bowfishing Legal in Arizona?
Arizona lets you bowfish for several fish in the state, and you can find carp throughout the state waters. The Game and Fish Department loves when people bowfish for them because they cause damage to our local waterways when in large numbers, and they displace our local fish populations.
Along with taking carp, you can take other fish in the state, such as:
- Catfish (check local regulations)
You can target the non-game fish species in the state such as the ones listed. They encourage taking the carp especially because they reproduce in mass numbers and displace our native fish populations.
What are Some Arizona Bowfishing Spots?
The best lakes in Arizona where you can go bowfishing include:
- Apache Lake
- Pleasant Canyon
- Roosevelt Lake
- Saguaro Lake
All of the lakes mentioned above carry invasive carp populations that the local DNR hopes to eradicate. Also, you might try the Colorado River since it is loaded with carp. If you wanted to go after Tilapia, we would recommend going to Alamo Lake.
Apache Lake has over 17 miles to offer bowfishermen, and you can shoot the catfish here too. They set a bag limit at five catfish per day. Located to the east of Phoenix, this lake acts as a reservoir in the Salt River chain. You might think of Apache Lake as a hidden gem of Arizona. Even for fishing, we would consider this one of the lakes worth checking out.
Pleasant Canyon varies greatly depending on each bowfishing session and what you see. In some cases, you might see nothing but carp out in the water, but you have other times where you might see only one carp the whole time. Again, this is another bowfishing spot near Phoenix.
Roosevelt Lake covers 20,000 acres in Central Arizona. In fact, it distinguishes itself as the largest lake in Central Arizona. You may think of Arizona as a state without lakes, but they, in fact, have 128 lakes. Bass fishermen love to come to this lake, and you do them a favor in bowfishing for the carp which eat the bass eggs.
Keep in mind that they hold a bowfishing tournament here every year.
Check the laws ahead of time to make sure that nothing has changed, but they allow bowfishing for catfish on Apache Lake, Pleasant Canyon, Roosevelt Lake and Saguaro Lake. One lucky bowfishermen even pulled out a 41-pound flathead catfish from here—the state record.
Keep in mind that bowfishing for catfish may be subject to change in the future since some of the “catch-and-release” crowd love to defend the catfish to the death. I can’t personally understand that attitude since I’ve always eaten the fish I caught and never released even with regular fishing. Check the Arizona bowfishing laws and regulations ahead of time to make sure that they didn’t change anything.
Besides that, you can also shoot carp at Saguaro Lake, which we would especially recommend since it does a public service in ridding the invasive carp from our waters.
The shores around Saguaro Lake have the majestic Saguaro cactus, which is where the lake got its name. You will find Saguaro Lake located 45 minutes to the east of Scottsdale. We would consider it well worth checking out if interested in bowfishing.
Arizona State Bowfishing Records
The bowfishing state record for common carp was 33 pounds, 39 inches in length. Derrick Greene shot the carp on January 22, 2021. Derrick Greene actually holds the bowfishing record on two fish, and he shot the Arizona state record for the smallmouth buffalo on April 10, 2020. It weighed 47.8 pounds and measured 41 inches long.
Joe Kauffman took the record for flathead catfish at 41.16 pounds, 52 inches, shot on April 18, 2015. For the bigmouth buffalo, Jason Wright shot a 34-pound, 9.6-ounce fish on March 9, 2019.
Bowfishing Catfish in Arizona
Now, you may get some hate for bowfishing catfish in this state—and anywhere that you would bowfish catfish—but to each his own, I say. The state of Arizona lets you take up to five catfish per day, but check the lake ahead of time in case they introduced a local law against it. Bowfishing can be extremely fickle with its laws, and even where the state laws say one thing, you can still wind up with local laws that regulate it.
Arizona has three catfish species that include flathead catfish, yellow bullhead and channel catfish. They first introduced the flathead catfish back in the 1940s.
Where to Go for Bowfishing Tilapia
Right around the Yuma region, you can find an abundance of bowfishing opportunities for tilapia. The fish has become especially prized for its delicious flavor. You might show up here particularly around the winter season to go bowfishing for tilapia. Unlike the carp, the winter months show you one of the best times to go after them.
Do You Need Special Permits for Bowfishing in Arizona?
You just need a valid fishing license to go bowfishing in the state of Arizona. Keep the license on you in case the DNR approaches you on it. Keep in mind that this applies to anyone over the age of 10 years old. Those under 10 years old don’t need a fishing license to go bowfishing since the state considers it the same as fishing.
The Arizona Bowfishing Association
We highlight the Arizona Bowfishing Association because they throw bowfishing tournaments throughout the year. If you want to know where to participate in a bowfishing tournament in Arizona, this association would be the place to look. They also fight for the rights of bowfishermen and help us to keep the local state waters clean. It may cost to become a member, but it gives you plenty of benefits.
Getting Your Gear Together
Perhaps you don’t have a bowfishing bow to go bowfishing. I put together this list of the 14 best bowfishing bows. It can help you to find a bow that you will love on your bowfishing trips. We wouldn’t recommend bringing your best-hunting bow out on the water because it will bump around in the boat a lot and risk damage. Bowfishing can be hard on bows and getting a bow that was made for snap shooting will give a few advantages as well.
Bowfishing State Guide Resource
Because I have already written about other states for bowfishing, you might check them out to plan a trip to another state for bowfishing. I love bowfishing in other states because it offers me the chance at a change of scenery:
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in California
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Colorado
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Ohio
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Utah
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in South Carolina
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Kentucky
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Texas
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Louisiana
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Wisconsin
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Florida
Arizona holds some good opportunities for bowfishing, and it stands out as one of the states where you can go after the catfish. Many of the states don’t let you bowfish for catfish, and if I lived in Arizona, I would personally take advantage of this. You can go out in your own bowfishing boat, bowfish from shore or you can hire a bowfishing guide. The advantage of using a guide, especially for those coming from out of state, is that you don’t need a boat and the guide may have special spots for bowfishing to shoot more fish.