Maybe you just took up the sport of bowfishing in Washington and have questions about where you can bowfish and the laws around it. Bowfishing in Washington State has an abundance of opportunities if you know where to look. Especially on the eastern side of Washington, you will encounter plenty of places where you can shoot carp.
Washington Bowfishing Regulations
Washington State lets you bowfish for all non-game fish species, but you can’t bowfish for the game-fish species here. You’re pretty much only allowed to shoot the carp here. Keep in mind that the bowfishing laws and regulations in Washington can change from time to time, so you will want to contact your local DNR official if you have a question.
One of the cool things that I’d like to highlight about bowfishing in Washington is that you don’t need a fishing license to bowfish for the common carp, and they don’t have a daily limit. Shoot as many as you’d like. Carp are such a problem in this area that they make it even easier for you to go after them with no fishing license required.
That differs from all the other states for bowfishing that I’ve written about. Again, check your local bowfishing laws and regulations before you set out to ensure that you don’t run afoul of the law. Under state law, they prohibit you from shooting other fish species like salmon, sturgeon, shad or shellfish.
Now, you can’t just set up on any lake in most states for bowfishing. That would put you on the fast track to friction with the law. However, any lake that the WDFW stocks with fish is considered fair game for bowfishing in most cases when you target the carp.
Just beware that, unfortunately, in this state, even if they allow it technically, you can still run across individual DNR who don’t understand the laws themselves and will give you problems. In general, I’d recommend just going to another bowfishing lake rather than testing the law and its ability to protect you since bowfishing tends to be a gray area for most states.
Related article: Ultimate 9 Best Bowfishing Reels
Where to Go Bowfishing in Washington State
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has a great resource on how to find bowfishing spots in the state. You have a few great places to go bowfishing in Washington, but let’s take a look at the best places to bowfish here and how to bowfish on each lake. Some of the most common places to bowfish in Washington include:
- Potholes Reservoir
- Moses Lake
- Priest Rapids Dam
- Wanapum Dam
- Lake Washington
Potholes Reservoir is a hot bowfishing spot, and they even have a couple of bowfishing tournaments here from time to time. You especially want to hit this location around the carp spawning season since it will prove rife with activity during that time. In Washington, they tend to spawn from April to July, but when they will specifically spawn during that time depends on the water temperature. The carp like to spawn at around 64 to 72.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can go bowfishing here year-round since the bowfishing season in Washington never ends, and this reservoir stays open. I know with some other reservoirs like in California and Texas, they’ll close them up for a period, so you want to keep that in mind before you try other reservoirs.
This lake in eastern Washington offers a tournament called the Moses Lake Carp Classic. In 2023, this is the fourth annual bowfishing tournament, and they will host it on Saturday, May 20 starting at 6:00 pm. Moses Lake doesn’t sit too far from Potholes Reservoir, and if you’re in the area, you can try both of them.
Just as a side note, it’s illegal to release invasive fish species back into the lake like carp. I’ve heard of them doing it here, and it makes zero sense. You’re polluting the waters with dead fish and released in great quantities, it can spread disease.
It also makes no sense to release the carp back into the water after you shoot them because they will always die later from the arrow that pierced them sooner or later.
Priest Rapids Dam
Again, this is another location where they host bowfishing tournaments from time to time, so you may want to check back. It sits right along the Columbia River renowned for its scenic northwest views. You can legally take them from the boat or walk along the shores of the river even if the river doesn’t sit on public land.
You can find a ton of carp below the Wanapum Dam. Check any of the shallow coves for them. You will find them in massive numbers during the summer. Wanapum Dam itself is massive, and it spans a mile and a half. Many bowfishermen love to come here for the sport. Keep in mind that with the rivers and streams, they’re only open here from before Memorial Day up until October 31st. Just remember that you cannot bowfish for salmon since it’s illegal. In fact, I don’t know of a single state that lets you bowfish for salmon.
Lake Washington has a bit of a carp problem, and you’d be doing a public service to eliminate some of the carp from these waters. You often find them weaving through the lily pads and logs. It won’t take you long to find the fish here. One of the better places to go bowfishing here is toward the east side of Lake Washington. Just remember, you can’t bait them with breadcrumbs here or anything else due to them trying to cut down on the pollution of the lake.
Where to Find Tournaments: Washington Bowfishing Association
If you’d like to participate in any bowfishing tournaments in the state, one of the best resources is the Washington Bowfishing Association. They regularly host tournaments, and they make for one of the best resources to find the tournament in whatever state you might be visiting. For example, if you go bowfishing in Florida, check out their association if you want to participate in a tournament.
Hopefully, this gives you an idea about the bowfishing in Washington State. You have plenty of good bowfishing opportunities here if you know where to look, and I’ve heard of carp the size of 69 pounds in some of the lakes here. However, the state record is said to hover at around 50 pounds, so if you happen to shoot a carp that big, you’d be breaking the state record.
If you’re a beginner without a bowfishing bow, don’t worry since you can check out the best bowfishing bows here. It’s even a great place to just window shop and dream about the next bow that you will use out on the water. What can it hurt to have a look?