When I first set out to bowfish in the state of Georgia, I didn’t know where to go bowfishing, and I wasn’t sure about the laws here. I’m from Minnesota and because of my ignorance of Georgia, I did some research here to put together a helpful guide. You can use this guide to figure out where you want to bowfish, what fish you want to target and what laws you need to follow.
Is Bowfishing Legal in Georgia?
Like in all other states of the US, you can bowfish in Georgia legally. The laws do differ from one state to the next and Georgia has its own set of laws that we will cover here. First, Georgia prohibits the use of exploding or poisonous arrows. That means leave the Rambo arrows back at home.
When it comes to legal bowfishing hours in Georgia, you can take fish only from sunrise to sunset. The exception to that law is that you can bowfish at night, but it must be on a lake of over 500 acres at a light reservoir.
You must stay aware of your bowfishing distance, and you cannot discharge arrows within 150 feet of those engaged in other recreational activities—that seems fair enough.
Do you need a fishing license to bowfish in Georgia? To get started bowfishing, you will need to buy a fishing license. It covers you for bowfishing as well. You can do saltwater bowfishing in Georgia, but it means that you need a saltwater fishing license if you will bowfish on the ocean. If you will bowfish on lakes, you just need a freshwater license.
What Fish Can You Bowfish in Georgia?
Georgia lets you bowfish for all the non-game fish and invasive fish species. There are also select lakes and a river that lets you target some species of catfish. We will cover that here. Typically, non-game fish species are seen as the less desirable fish like carp, gar, tilapia shad and bowfin. For saltwater fish species, you can shoot flounder, barracudas, stingray and sheepshead.
Saltwater can be a big gray area in Georgia, and if you want to bowfish for any of the species, it would be wise to check with a DNR official first just to make sure. Much of this comes down, again, to bowfishing for non-game fish species.
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Best Places to Bowfish in Georgia
Especially in places like northern Georgia, you will probably need a boat. Doing it from shore can be hard in some of these areas.
Some of the places where you could go bowfishing in Georgia include:
- Lake Seminole
- Lake Lanier
- Savannah River
- Lake Hartwell
- Lake Russell
- Clarks Hill Lake
- Lake Jackson
- Lake Sinclair
Because Georgia wants you to bowfish only on the bigger lakes at night, you will find many bigger lakes to bowfish on here. Lake Seminole is one of those lakes with plenty of bowfishing spots. What’s good on Lake Seminole can change from one day to the next since the fish shift a lot. You can shoot some bowfin, gar and shad.
Expert Tip: On most Georgia lakes, there’s no advantage to using an airboat. Some exceptions to that rule would be lakes like Lake Seminole and Lake Gunterville because of the grass-clogged lakes. Sliding over the greenery is your biggest advantage of an airboat.
The carp on Lake Seminole can be scarce unless you know where to look. Head over to Cypress Pond if you’d like to shoot carp. Now, you can’t go in there for bowfishing because there’s a sign that says, “No bowfishing,” but you might catch some of the fish that come out near that area.
You will see a lot of shallows and flats in Cypress Pond. The carp here can get huge. There used to be tilapia in there, but a lot of them died in the freeze. It’s unfortunate, however, that they don’t let you bowfish in there.
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This is a reservoir in the northern part of Georgia, which covers over 38,000 acres of spectacular scenery. You can find a lot of gar bowfishing on Lake Lanier. Check up in the coves and the creeks for them. In particular, Wahoo creek on Lake Lanier is full of gar. One bowfishermen reported saying up to 40 grass carp in the back of there, which should demonstrate to you how full this place is with them.
If you’d like to target the carp on Lake Lanier, head over to Lula Bridge where there are hundreds of carp. There are tons and tons of carp in that area. A lot of bowfishermen head over to Lula Bridge. Hit the first little pond on the left in particular for some action.
As a side note, you can’t take catfish in much of Georgia, but one of the locations where you can shoot flathead and channel catfish is on the Savannah River Basin. This area does deal with fish dumping. Please, don’t dump your fish at the boat landing. This hurts the reputation of our cherished sport to everyone, and it makes all of us look bad. If you’d like to learn what to do with dead carp, check out the article I wrote here.
If you’re looking for a place where you can get started, try setting out in Augusta, Georgia.
Typically, the carp will start to spawn on Lake Hartwell from late March to April. If you want to know where to look for them, check toward the back of Eastanollee and Gumlog Creeks. You will see a lot of carp back there. Like with the Savannah River, this is considered a Savannah Lakes River, which means that you can target the flathead and channel catfish here.
The reason that you can shoot the catfish here is because of an agreement between South Carolina and Georgia. These cats are considered invasive, so shoot all the best of them. Just keep in mind that outside of this chain, you can’t bowfish for catfish in the rest of Georgia. Some of the lakes where you can shoot them include:
- Lake Hartwell
- Lake Russell
- Clarks Hill
- Savannah River
In the summer months on Lake Hartwell, head over to the shallows by Yonah Dam. You will find the water clear up here, and the carp are in abundance. Another place to hit the carp on Lake Hartwell is Seneca Creek right above the boat ramp. In early April to after a week in May, you will find carp all over in the willows.
Because of the clear water on Lake Russell, you will find that this is one of the most popular bowfishing spots in all of Georgia. The carp populations here are very high. The upper end of Lake Russell in particular is one of the best places to go bowfishing here. There have been 3-foot long gars in this area.
There’s little shoreline development on Lake Russell. The one issue with this lake is that because of the overpopulation of the carp, the fish all tend to be small. You can expect the average to be anywhere from 1 pound to 2 pounds.
Check the shallow flats, the backs of creeks and the covers for the carp here. To put into perspective how many carp you can shoot, an experienced bowfisherman went out on a session with one other buddy. Within two hours, they had shot 23 carp and one gar. With that said, they may have taken close to 200 shots for the entire time.
Clarks Hill Lake
Beware of bowfishing near the dam at Clarks Hill Lake because, while the water is clearer in this area, there are also fewer fish. As you go further up the river, the water gets muddier. There are more carp in this area. The carp like to stir up mud, which is usually one of the signs that you have them in the area. This is also a place to target the flatheads and channel catfish.
You can target blue catfish on Lake Sinclair because they’re invasive here, but keep in mind that this isn’t one of the Savannah River chain lakes, so you can’t target the flatheads or the channels. They did not set a limit on how many blue catfish you can shoot here (this is information according to the Lake Oconee Breeze Publication). Take as many as you can as long your boat doesn’t sink from so many!
Lake Sinclair does have cloudy water, which has made it virtually impossible for spearfishermen. You won’t find many who spearfish on Lake Sinclair, but there are bowfishermen here who will light them up at night and take shots.
The same rule from Lake Sinclair applies to Lake Oconee. You can take the blue catfish here without limits. Take as many as you like as long as your boat doesn’t sink! Lake Oconee is a little bit more popular as a bowfishing spot than Lake Sinclair. Lake Oconee has a lot of houses in the area compared to some of the other lakes in Georgia. Some bowfishermen don’t like this because it can lead to conflict with the people.
Not everyone looks at bowfishermen favorably due to poor practices from some of our fellow bowfishermen. .
Whether you choose Lake Oconee or Lake Sinclair, both lakes are full of football sized carp. The only issue with both of these lakes is that the water is always muddy.
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Hopefully, this guide helps you to bowfish better while in the state of Georgia. You have a lot of great bowfishing opportunities in the state, and there are a couple of tournaments here too. If you’d like to participate in one of the tournaments here, check out the Georgia Bowfishing Association, which will highlight all of the best upcoming tournaments. It’s one of the best ways to learn about bowfishing tournaments in any state.