Indiana offers tons of bowfishing opportunities, and the sport has its share of popularity here. You may wonder about the laws and where to go bowfishing, and we will cover everything here from the best bowfishing spots in the state to the Indiana bowfishing laws and regulations. You can bowfish here year-round, which separates it from regular fishing where it does have a season for it to an extent.
Indiana Bowfishing Laws and Regulations
Bowfishing in Indiana is legal for rough fish, such as Asian carp, common carp, buffalo, gar, bowfin, suckers and shad. You can use a bow or a crossbow in the state of Indiana. The Indiana House Bill 1279 was signed in 2012 by former Governor Mitch Daniels to allow you to take fish with the crossbow legally.
You must have a fishing license to bowfish since the state considers it a form of fishing. The state lets you bowfish on all waters unless an ordinance says otherwise. With bowfishing, I would always advise that you check out the local laws since this has tripped up bowfishermen across the country.
Beware of firing a bow within city limits since many cities have ordinances against firing weapons. Personally, I wouldn’t even take the risk when you can bowfish almost everywhere else here. Indiana prohibits shooting from bridges and roadways. Just please, don’t cause a disturbance since this can see our beloved sport restricted. For example, don’t dump the dead fish on the boat landing, which isn’t asking a lot of people.
Bowfishing remains a new and somewhat obscure sport in the state, which has made it a bit of a gray area when it comes to the law. Don’t let a DNR official ticket you without telling you why since it may not be a true law. Check everything. However, don’t argue too much either since it can give the sport a bad reputation.
You can’t bowfish in the state parks in the state of Indiana, and some people have been thrown out of them for bowfishing there. This law relates more to how they prohibit weapons of any kind.
Indiana Bowfishing Records
Indiana gives you the chance to shoot some giant carp, and to give an example, Chad McDonald shot a 79-pound, 9.6-ounce bighead carp on August 16, 2020. For the bigmouth buffalo, Michael Garske shot a 52-pound, 6.4-ounce bigmouth buffalo on October 20, 2019.
In terms of bowfin, Matt Miskell holds the record for the largest bowfin at 13 pounds, 6.24 ounces. He took the record on March 17, 2015. To note, many people shoot bigger dogfish and don’t report it not thinking about the state record and being more horrified than anything about catching a dogfish. For that reason, you may be able to take the Indiana state record more easily with this fish.
The Indiana grass carp state record is held by Kyle Gudorf at 68.8 pounds. The common carp state record weighed in at 49.1 pounds by James Kalkbrenner.
Best Places to Bowfish in Indiana
You can bowfish at tons of great spots in the state of Indiana, but I will cover the most popular here, and since you can bowfish at most waters in the state, you won’t see a shortage of options. Indiana has 86 lakes to choose from.
Some of the best places to go bowfishing in Indiana include:
- Lake Michigan
- St. Joseph River
- Sugar Creek
- Wabash River
- West Fork of the White
- Patoka Lake
- Lake Monroe
- Ohio River
- Hovey Lake
- Kokomo Reservoir
Along the south shore of Lake Michigan, you will have plenty of bowfishing opportunities. You will see the common carp spawning in the rich marshes along the lakeshore. Check along the steel mill section of Lake Michigan since this part has many bays and harbors full of fish. Anyone who has ever shot a 45-pound carp likely had it come out of the Michigan state waters.
St. Joseph River
You can especially find some good-sized grass carp in the St. Joseph River. The river has tons of steelhead and salmon, but those targets are off-limits since they count as game fish. The suckers in this lake tend to be a little more. You will encounter an abundance of carp here too. Taking out the trash fish like carp preserves the popular steelhead and salmon because they eat their eggs.
Check around the large man-made structures since the carp appear to love hanging out in areas like this. For example, check the South Bend area.
Rife and full of carp, Sugar Creek has tons of good bowfishing opportunities. With whatever you shoot, please take it home with you. Unfortunately, this area has disrespectful canoe companies—speaking of no one specific here—that have dumped their fish right along the sand bars and other things. This not only wastes the fish, but it stinks up the area for others so that they don’t enjoy it as much.
Stretching 475 miles along the Indiana-Illinois border, the Wabash River has a wee bit of a carp problem. You can fill a truck bed full of rough fish. North of Terre Haute, you can shoot a lot of silver carp. The Wabash River in the Indiana side doesn’t have the same craziness as on the Illinois side, but you can still do well with it.
You want to target the Asian carp on the Wabash River since they threaten to overtake out waters and reach Lake Michigan, which would prove disastrous for native fish populations. Take as many at each session as you possibly can. Just keep in mind that the further south you go on this river, the more that you will need a boat.
West Fork of the White
In Petersburg, Indiana, from the power plant down to the island, you will find this area loaded with silver carp. Beware of this river since it’s the most dangerous river in the state. You have many 90 and 180-degree bends. Some areas will have a wide and slow river, but it can suddenly bottleneck without warning and have stumps and logs on top of it.
Usually, the current will be brutal in these areas. If you decide to bowfish West Fork of the White, exercise a great deal of caution and don’t speed. Several people lose their lives here each year. This river is as nasty as they come, and while all rivers have their dangerous points, this one proves particularly treacherous. The depth can quickly vary from one spot to the next.
Check the rivers and creeks that join the Wabash since they will have bigheads and silvers in them too. Wherever you fish on this river, you should encounter plenty of chances to shoot some carp.
Plenty of carp reside on Patoka Lake, which make it the ideal shooting ground for carp. When it rains, this lake may not prove the best spot, but otherwise, you can do quite well on it. The fish on this lake don’t have much size to them compared to others, but the spawn here can get pretty wild. I have heard of people who bring home up to 50 fish in a session. Expect anything between 8 to 9 pounds on average with not much in between.
Look for the coves, shallows and flats on Patoka Lake. A lot of bowfishermen here report nonstop action. Before you can shoot here, make sure that you have a lake permit since the cops like to swarm this area and catch those in violation of the law.
Perhaps one of the most famous bowfishing lakes in Indiana, Lake Monroe holds the undisputed title of the best place to arrow the carp. Check the Crooked Creek region of Lake Monroe for some of the wildest bowfishing action in the state.
Anywhere on the Ohio River offers the perfect bowfishing opportunity since it comes teeming with carp. Just be aware of how they made it illegal to bowfish at the falls of the Ohio River due to federal laws for the National Wildlife Conservation Area. Some of the falls may have a limit on how close you can get to them. You must understand the bowfishing regulations unique to the Ohio River since it has a set of rules of its own.
Check out the action on the Ohio River here to see how much fun you can have:
This lake comes chock full of silver carp and stumps. Don’t run too fast on this lake or you might hit them. You can mess up your trolling motor if you don’t watch closely enough. The shallow water on Hovey has made it a good spot to arrow carp. Check the Cypress trees since they like to suck on them. However, watch out for the stump, and we wouldn’t take your best-trolling motor out on this lake.
In the summer season, Kokomo has decent bowfishing opportunities, but you may want to check out the creeks in the Kokomo area since they offer even better opportunities.
Indiana Bowfishing Tournaments
Indiana hosts a couple of bowfishing tournaments throughout the year worth checking out. Some of the tournaments that you might participate in include:
- Cajun 8 (Evansville, Indiana)
- April Fool’s String Fling (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
- Clash of the Titans (Tippecanoe River in Indiana)
- Houston Bowfishing Classic Tournament (Lafayette, Indiana)
The bowfishing in Indiana is some of the best in the country, which makes it well worth checking out. If you’d like to see some other great states for bowfishing, why not check out bowfishing in Minnesota or Wisconsin, since they’re both close states. You can have a lot of fun with this sport, and you don’t necessarily have to bowfish exclusively in your own state. You can try out some of the others as well for extra fun.