Louisiana offers some excellent bowfishing opportunities. You have the awesome alligator gar in the state that people love to bowfish for, and the populations remain stable. Along with that, you can choose from either freshwater or saltwater bowfishing excursions with plenty of great opportunities everywhere around. Louisiana is unique in that you have 10,700 square miles of coastal marshes, which account for 12 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands.
What Fish Can You Bowfish in Louisiana?
You can choose to bowfish several types of fish in Louisiana including:
- Alligator Gar
- Black Drum
- Common carp
- Grass carp
- Bighead carp
- Bull sharks
You can bowfish for the non-game fish species in the state of Louisiana. If you have any questions about a species beyond this list, check ahead of time to see if they allow you to bowfish them. You also want to be aware of the individual regulations. While carp are invasive and no limit is placed on them, some fish like the redfish will have limits.
However, Louisiana is one of the few states where they allow you to bowfish for the redfish. Most states won’t let you bowfish for them since they consider them a gamefish species. This matters because of how redfish are known for having a tasty, sweet and mild flavor.
Louisiana Bowfishing Regulations
With all regulations, check in advance with local authorities to see that nothing changed. Laws are subject to change, and bowfishing laws have proven especially tricky because of how it is a niche and lesser-known sport where sometimes even the DNR doesn’t know the laws. Many bowfishermen have reported being challenged on things where they knew that they were in the right. In some cases, it would be wise to keep a book of the rules on hand to show.
Like many states, you just need to show a valid Lousiana fishing license. Let’s say that you come from out of state and won’t need the extra money for a long-term license. You can buy a charter pass license in the state. Learn more about license costs here.
If you plan to bowfish in saltwater, buy a saltwater license and likewise with freshwater if you plan to bowfish on freshwater. Louisiana doesn’t require anything special outside of that, and most states do the same with bowfishing. You need a saltwater license if you will do saltwater or vice versa.
Louisiana is also one of the states where you can bowfish for shark. South Louisiana like Leeville and Grand Isle would especially prove a good location to bowfish for sharks, but you need to stay aware of the laws. For example, you can only take one shark per boat per day.
It also needs to be a specific species since they don’t allow you to take certain species of shark. We know that you can take the bull shark or at least you used to be able to, but you may want to check if you want to hunt other shark species. Either the local authorities or a local bowfishing guide can tell you about the species that you can take.
Bowfishing in Grand Isle
If you happen to be in South Louisiana, one of the places that we would like to mention as a standout bowfishing spot is Grand Isle. You will see a bunch of riprap in this area where you can shoot tons of sheepshead. It extends into the bayou behind the tower. This area doesn’t require a boat since you can shoot from shore with great success.
Many people who bowfish Grand Isle will often reel in their first redfish shortly after arrival. Another area nearby where you can’t go wrong is bowfishing in the saltwater marshes of Leeville.
Wherever you shoot, be aware of the local laws. Don’t shoot on private property since the local DNR has begun to write tickets for it. You need to show written permission in most cases. Leeville tends to experience issues with murky water, but you can eliminate the problem through bowfishing the shallows on the bayou side of Lafourche.
Some of the fish you can bowfish at Grand Isle include:
- Alligator gar
- Black drum
In case you want a South Louisiana bowfishing charter, we would recommend Grand Isle Full Draw Bowfishing. The guide for the charter was born and raised in Grand Isle, and he knows all the best locations to go bowfishing. If you want to plan an alligator gar bowfishing trip, with whatever guide you hire, tell them in advance specifically what you want to go after. They might know about specific spots to go bowfishing.
Bowfishing on Lake Charles
We list Lake Charles as one of the low-level options to bowfish on. We wouldn’t call this a top-priority bowfishing spot, but if you can’t think of anything else, it may be an okay spot to bowfish from. The one downside of this location comes from it always being muddy, and you have to beware of the refineries in the area since bowfishing there may have security chase you away.
Also, be aware of how many of the areas here are located in the reserves, and they don’t let you in them at night. Bowfishing at night is—to some bowfishermen—essential. Truthfully, I wouldn’t recommend Lake Charles and nobody that I know of does bowfishing there. If you’re interested in where to bowfish, check out some of the other locations that I highlighted above and below.
Bowfishing in Venice
Venice, Louisiana, and the surrounding area has an abundance of marshes where you can shoot some alligator gar. If you’re looking to bowfish here, Saltgrass Outdoors would offer you a great charter. The area holds alligator gar, redfish and black drum all waiting for you to take shots at.
You will find that the state of Louisiana uses airboats for bowfishing more than other boats, especially in the marshes. They do this because it doesn’t hurt the vegetation, and you can navigate the shallow waters more easily. You would also consider them quite stable.
If you’d like to see what the bowfishing is like in Venice, check out the video below:
Like he says in the video, bowfishing in Louisiana is fun because of how you never know what you might see here. We wouldn’t say that they have as big of alligator gar as what you might get in Texas(check out the guide to bowfishing in Texas here), but they still have a stable population of them, and some can get about as big as what they do in Texas. If you plan to go after the alligator gar, the one thing to remember is that you will need a special arrowhead that can cut through their thick armor-like skin. We would recommend arrow tips specifically meant for taking down alligator gar.
Bowfishing at Night in Louisiana
Bowfishing is an especially popular sport at night, and Louisiana is no different. Night bowfishing has an advantage because even in muddy water, you can illuminate the fish to shoot them. I find bowfishing during the day more difficult because you need good polarized sunglasses to shoot the fish during the day. Otherwise, you will have a harder time shooting them.
Louisiana especially has a lot of muddy waters that you will bowfish on due to it being a lot of marshes, but going at night can help you to see the fish better.
Where to Go for Bowfishing Tournaments
First, we would recommend the Atchafalaya Basin Bowfishing Tournament in Opelousas, Louisiana. They call it the world championships of bowfishing here to give you an idea of how seriously they take it. This is the third oldest city in the state of Louisiana, and you will find it located in Central Louisiana, not far from Baton Rouge.
Another place to go to a bowfishing tournament is the bowfishing championship that they have in Bossier City. It’s located in the upper northwestern part of the state close to Texas and Arkansas.
Where is the Best Place to Bowfish in Louisiana?
If we could only give you one spot to go bowfishing in the state, we would recommend anywhere in South Louisana like Grand Isle and Leeville doing saltwater bowfishing since it has become especially popular here. You have many great opportunities for bowfishing in this region, and what we like about Louisana is that you have many types of fish that you can go after, along with the alligator gar.
How Big Do the Alligator Gar Get in Louisiana?
The average alligator gar will range in size from 4 to 6 feet, and they will weigh anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds. The biggest known gar can go up to 300 pounds and reach 10 feet, but we’re talking the biggest here, which isn’t as common. Keep in mind, they have imposed a statewide limit on the alligator gar where you can only take one per day.
You do have some exceptions to that like the Falcon International Reservoir where you can take up to five per day. Also, be aware of how some parts of Lake Texoma prohibit the shooting of alligator gar during their spawning season in May.
After you shoot an alligator gar, we would implore you not to throw it away like how you might with carp. Alligator gar are considered a trash fish, and unfortunately, they get lumped in with carp and some people think of them as inedible. That isn’t true. They have a white and firm meat that you might compare to many of the gamefish that you would eat.
Alligator gar has become so popular in the state that they even have commercial fisheries for them, which should demonstrate the value of eating this fish.
Louisiana Bowfishing Charters
Especially if you don’t have a bowfishing boat yourself and have no experience in bowfishing, we would recommend a bowfishing charter. Signing up for a charter offers you the opportunity to go bowfishing without the need for gear. In many cases, they will borrow out bowfishing equipment as part of the package.
In case you would prefer to shoot with your own bowfishing bow but you don’t currently have one, I wrote about the “Ultimate 14 Best Bowfishing Bows” here.
The other advantage relates to having access to an expert who knows where to look. A bowfishing guide will understand where to hunt for fish, and they can navigate the waters to some of the best locations. They can also give you pointers while out on the water.
Before going with a charter, check to see where they bowfish. For example, some will bowfish in the marshes outside of New Orleans, and they will understand the laws to help you navigate bowfishing there without fines.
You want to speak with a guide and communicate your individual needs and goals before signing up with a charter. We have found that many people, even tourists from out of state, sign up with a charter. Charters are especially useful for someone coming from out of state who doesn’t have the gear to go bowfishing.
Louisiana Bowfishing Association: What to Know
Every state seems to have a bowfishing association and Louisiana is no different. What we like about them is how they keep track of state records (check them out here), and they often are the ones behind the bowfishing tournaments. Not always, but you often find that they host the bowfishing tournaments, so if you want to find where the tournaments are in a state, they’re some of the best people to ask.
Another thing that makes the Louisiana Bowfishing Association so good is that they fight for the rights of bowfishermen, but they also try to pass responsible laws that will preserve our wildlife for years to come. They’re not a government entity, but they serve as another form of protection for our nation’s natural resources with their cause that will benefit all bowfishermen over the long term.
Louisiana offers some great bowfishing opportunities worth checking out. One of the things that people come here for is to bowfish the alligator gar, but bowfishing in the marshes here is unlike anything else. You will have a great time being out in nature and enjoying God’s country. Anyone who has never bowfished here is in for a treat. like to bowfish in Louisiana for the vastly different environment.
If you’re interested in some of the other state guides that I’ve written, check some of them out below: