Bowfishing in North Carolina offers saltwater and freshwater opportunities. Many bowfishermen in North Carolina will bowfish here from March to November with an abundance of tournaments to shoot at. Bowfishing differs greatly from hunting, and while whitetail deer hunters may use sights, bowfishing does better without them because you often take snapshots at the fish.
North Carolina Bowfishing Regulations
You can bowfish for the non-game fish species in North Carolina. Most bowfishermen like to target the invasive fish species because it offers a public service killing the fish that hurt other native fish populations.
While you can bowfish on saltwater or freshwater in the state, you must buy the appropriate license. For example, if you will bowfish in saltwater, you will need to buy a saltwater fishing license. If you plan to bowfish on freshwater, you will need a freshwater fishing license.
The fish that they target here include:
- Longnose gar
For the saltwater fish that you can target, the laws include:
- Black drum
Bowfishing Stingrays in North Carolina
Many bowfishermen love to target stingrays in the state, and this is the one fish that you can shoot and it will survive as long as you don’t shoot it in the vitals. With other fish, you can’t release them when bowfishing because of how the arrows kill the fish. Stingrays love to take up right along the shore in the grass, and they will often work up the bottom.
For those who want to take them home and eat them, stingray has a sweet flavor that tastes like crab meat or lobster.
Bowfishing Clubs in North Carolina
The bowfishing scene is active, and you can participate in a couple of bowfishing clubs depending on where you live in the state. Some of the bowfishing clubs in North Carolina include:
- Carolina Bowfishing Club
- Bowfishing Association of North Carolina
- Upstate Bowfishing Club
- Tarheel Fish Stickers Bowfishing Club
You want to check the clubs because they will occasionally host bowfishing tournaments, and North Carolina offers several good tournaments every year that you may want to participate in.
Where to Bowfish in North Carolina
You have several awesome locations to go bowfishing in the state even outside the coastal waters, such as:
- Jordan Lake (Chatham County, NC)
- Lake Waccamaw (Bolton, NC)
- Sutton Lake (Wilmington, NC)
- Lake Norman (Cornelius, NC)
- Lake Hickory (East side of Catawba River, NC)
The second largest lake in North Carolina, you will enjoy some fast-paced action on Lake Jordan. It covers 21.78 square miles, and the United States Army Corp created this lake. This is one of those lakes where you can visit to shoot some catfish. Just don’t expect to shoot trophy catfish here. While it makes for a good spot to shoot catfish, it isn’t the best place for trophies, but you can get numbers here.
You can check out what it looks like to bowfish on Jordan Lake here:
Lake Waccamaw offers an annual bowfishing tournament in the spring of the year known as the Lake Waccamaw Bowfishing Tournament. This lake is very sandy and clear, and the clearness makes it the ideal shooting spot for bowfishing.
With regular fishing, you don’t need clarity to take shots at the fish. This lake has a few good carp, but you can shoot some North Carolina gar here too. In fact, the 1992 state record for gar was taken by William P. Gibson who shot a 27-pound longnose gar.
To give you an idea of the scale, the bowfishing tournament of 1972 on Waccamaw produced 2,860 pounds of carp and longnose gar. Granted, that was over 50 years ago, but it shows you how you can still shoot plenty of good fish here and how far back that tournament goes.
Many bowfishermen know Sutton Lake as having an abundance of carp for shooting. I’ve heard of bowfishermen here who can pull out 15 to 25 gar in a single outing or four to six hours of shooting. However, a lot of gar like to stay out deep, which makes them harder for bowfishermen to shoot. Check for flats from around 3 to 8 feet deep.
You can bowfish for grass carp on Lake Norman, and this 34 mile-long lake offers plenty of opportunities to target the carp. Catfish also remain a popular bowfishing target in the state of North Carolina. One bowfisherman reports how he saw over 50 flathead catfish on the lake. Especially at night, beware of the shoals on this lake, and if the wind starts to blow, Lake Norman proves a tough lake to bowfish on.
Lake Norman can be a good lake, but it can also be a bit slow at times. However, you have an endless number of possibilities for where you can shoot.
If you’d like to see what bowfishing on Lake Norman looks like, check out the video below:
You can shoot up to 20 carp between two people in a single night on Lake Hickory. Channel catfish and flathead catfish are popular targets here. Lake Hickory offers plenty of great shots of bigger fish. For the catfish, check around the dams.
Saltwater Bowfishing in North Carolina – Worth It?
Unlike other states, you can’t bowfish for shark in North Carolina, but stingrays have become a popular target here. In fact, sharks, striped bass, red drum and tarpon are all off limits in the state. If you want to take saltwater fish, you need a saltwater license, and if you want to go after the freshwater, you need a freshwater license. Along with a saltwater license, you need a CFL stamp in North Carolina.
The state allows you to bowfish as many stingrays as you’d like. A lot of people in North Carolina prefer to bowfish on saltwater because you have many opportunities here.
Some of the fish that you might target on saltwater include:
- Longnose Gar
Beware of some local guides who may tell you that you can bowfish for sharks here as long as they’re over 54 inches. Looking at the DNR’s website, they say that you cannot bowfish here, and if you were to try it, I would recommend that you ask in advance to see if any of the rules changed.
Where to Get Your Gear?
Especially if you’re new to bowfishing, you may not have any gear. You can either hire a bowfishing guide that will provide you with the gear, or you can buy some yourself. Bowfishing can be as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it. At a minimum, you will want a bowfishing bow, and I previously wrote about the best bowfishing bows here.
North Carolina allows for bowfishing on saltwater and freshwater. The first thing that you will want to do before you start is know the rules of where you will bowfish. You could join a bowfishing club if interested in participating in tournaments. The three main fish that people bowfish for in North Carolina include carp, gar and bowfin. Catfish is also pretty popular, and they bowfish a lot for stingrays when doing saltwater bowfishing.
If I had to make a recommendation for a bowfishing bow, I would recommend you check out the Cajun Bowfishing Shorerunner. It’s an easy compound bow to get started with, and Cajun Bowfishing has been around since 1991.