To give you an idea of how good the bowfishing can be here, a bad night bowfishing in Pennsylvania is walking away with 20 carp. Pennsylvania, like many of the other East Coast states, offers you great opportunities for bowfishing if you know where to look. I put together this helpful guide on the state of Pennsylvania so that you will know how to bowfish in the state. Every state will have different laws and regulations that you want to make sure you follow before you set out.
Is Bowfishing Legal in Pennsylvania?
Like all of the other states, bowfishing in Pennsylvania is legal, but you are only allowed to shoot the following fish:
You have some special laws and regulations about bowfishing in Pennsylvania that you should be aware of. For example, your arrows can’t have more than five-barbed points, and you can’t bowfish in waters that they stocked with trout. This was done to protect the trout populations. You also can’t bowfish on special regulation waters.
Unlike other states, Pennsylvania has a law where you can’t use the light from your boat to shine it into any occupied buildings. This has been one of the biggest complaints against bowfishermen is that they will shine their lights into houses. Your generators also can’t exceed a noise level of 90 dB.
Outside of that, you can take the above fish using a bow and arrow or crossbow. Under Pennsylvania law, like in most of the other states I’ve encountered, they put bowfishing in the same category as spearfishing, which means that you mostly follow the same laws as what they have in spearfishing.
Bowfishing can be a bit murky because it isn’t as popular as some of the other sports, so you may want to keep a rulebook in the jon boat to avoid arguing with a DNR official.
Act respectfully because if you don’t, you may wind up with more rules around bowfishing. They wrote an article back in February 2022 where they were trying to put more rules on bowfishing already. If we wind up with too many bowfishermen acting like a nuisance, it will lead to more restrictive laws for us all, making the sport less fun.
Can You Bowfish for Trout in Pennsylvania?
Bowfishing for trout in Pennsylvania is prohibited, and they only allow you to bowfish for snakehead, catfish, suckers and carp. You cannot bowfish for any other species in the state of Pennsylvania. You also can’t bowfish for bowfin or gar in PA. They only allow you to take a select few non-gamefish species, which are all invasive species in the state.
When is the Best Time to Bowfish in Pennsylvania?
From the later part of April to the later part of June marks out the best time to go bowfishing in Pennsylvania. However, it depends on the year and when the water temperatures warm up because the carp spawn at a specific water temperature. Generally, bowfishermen target the carp the most unless you have a lot of snakeheads to target (which taste delicious!).
You will encounter the carp spawning during this time, which is one of the best times to target the carp. In case you’d like to learn more about when the carp spawn, I put together this MONSTER guide on when the carp spawn (this includes information about all 50 states). Check it out for a little more detail.
Related article: Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Florida
Where are the Best Bowfishing Spots in Pennsylvania?
Technically, you can bowfish on all Commonwealth waters in Pennsylvania, so you don’t struggle with too much regulation in that regard. Many of the creeks, streams and rivers in Pennsylvania are littered with carp. You have plenty to choose from. Still, you may wonder where you can bowfish in the state of Pennsylvania.
While you may think Pennsylvania is tight on bowfishing regulations, New York is even stricter on where you can’t bowfish for anything other than carp. Let’s take a look at the best places to bowfish in Pennsylvania:
- Lower Susquehanna River
- Pinchot Lake
- Lake Arthur
- Pine Creek
- Lehigh River
- Shawnee Lake
- Lake Nockamixon
Lower Susquehanna River
The lower Susquehanna River has especially become one of the most popular locations for bowfishing in Pennsylvania. One of the best areas to check out would be from Washington Boro north to Harrisburg. You do have a lot of homes and camps along this river, so always act respectfully and don’t shine your lights into their vicinity.
You can also shoot snakehead in the Susquehanna River. One of the places to go if you’d like to target them is right around the Conowingo Dam.
Related article: Ultimate 9 Best Bowfishing Reels
Covering 340 acres, Pinchot Lake was designed as a big bass lake, but they do have carp on it, which lets you target them. The lake sits between Rossville and Lewisberry.
You will see some monster carp on Lake Arthur, and if you’d like to know where to start, check below the dam. This is a place where you might go if you wanted to shoot some big carp, but you wouldn’t necessarily hit Lake Arthur if you wanted numbers. The carp are big here, but there aren’t as many as in some of the other places.
If you want to know where to find the carp in Lake Arthur, check the shallower backwater bay areas near the north side of Lake Arthur.
Pine Creek is a famous northcentral creek that cut the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. For anyone interested in bowfishing here, you will find it in Etna. Bowfishermen often take some nice carp out of Pine Creek. If you want to know where to bowfish for carp on Pine Creek, start near the old Winky’s that was across from Shaler Plaza.
You could also wade a couple of miles up to where the Giant Eagle is now located in Glenshaw. Some people don’t even want you to talk about Pine Creek because they like it as their own little secret—they have some big carp in Pine Creek if you know where to look.
Related article: Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in North Carolina
Lehigh River is an especially popular location to go bowfishing if you wish to target the carp populations. When you bowfish this river, you can either wade in the river or get a small jon boat and cruise around looking for the carp. You want to take it right around the areas closer to the drop-off point where the carp like to hang out.
When you cruise around the shorelines, look for the areas where you have a shallow shoreline close to deep water.
If you’d like to see the size of the carp shot on Lehigh River, check out the video below:
Shawnee Lake is a 451-acre body of water that has some great carp opportunities here if you know where to look. Just check ahead of time to see for special laws and regulations because this one does sit near a state park.
Whenever you bowfish near a state park, check the laws and regulations ahead of time because some will let you bowfish there and others don’t allow the discharge of weapons.
This 1,450-acre lake has plenty of good bowfishing opportunities for carp. Check the shallow shorelines and the coves along this lake for carp. There were some complaints about bowfishermen on this lake dumping the carp. That’s a poor way to get rid of carp. In case you’d like to learn more about what to do with dead carp, check out the article that I wrote here about it.
How to Find Bowfishing Tournaments in Pennsylvania
Especially if new to Pennsylvania, you may wonder if the state has any bowfishing tournaments. I found how a lot of the bowfishermen here would head up to New York for bowfishing tournaments. You have a couple of bowfishing tournaments in the state, however, that include:
- Weaver’s Archery Bowfishing Tournament
- Susquehanna River Big 10 Bowfishing Tournament
- Howard Bowfishing Tournament
Again, some of the bowfishermen in Pennsylvania choose to target the tournaments in New York, but if you decide to go that route, make sure that you buy a New York fishing license before you do. Whatever state that you would go to, you usually need a fishing license from that state.
Related article: Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Virginia
Hopefully, this gives you an idea about the bowfishing in the state of Pennsylvania. Let’s say that you got through this, but now you realized that you don’t have a bowfishing bow. I wrote an article here on the Ultimate 14 Best Bowfishing Bows. Even just looking at the gear will give you an idea about what you might want to buy for bowfishing in the coming years. Check it out. What do you have to lose?