In the state of Michigan, you can bowfish up to 14 species of fish. That leaves you with ample bowfishing opportunities if you know where to look in the state for bowfishing. The best times to hop a boat and go bowfishing here will be from the late spring to the end of the summer season. Once the waters start to warm up, the bowfishing activity becomes rife with fun chances to pierce a big fighting carp.
Michigan Bowfishing Laws
Michigan lets you bowfish all year round. If you’re wondering what fish can you bowfish in Michigan, you can take a variety of fish species that include:
- Longnose gar
- Lake whitefish
- Gizzard shad
You can bowfish on all Michigan lakes and streams with the exception of those designated as trout lakes and streams.
In Michigan, everyone over the age of 17 must possess a fishing license to bowfish. This is a regular fishing license, and you don’t need anything special since Michigan law considers it the same as regular fishing.
Anyone who plans to bowfish in a specific city should call the local police department in advance. Bowfishing in cities can be tricky. Many cities will have ordinances against firearms discharge, and this includes bows. Many times, they will give a polite warning, but it’s better to air on the side of caution when it comes to the cities and their ordinances.
If the DNR or a law enforcement officer comes up and tells you to stop bowfishing in an area, in many cases, even if you know otherwise, you’re better off simply going elsewhere. Bowfishing already struggles with an image problem, and it doesn’t help when people argue. Act respectfully at all times. We don’t want to see the sport restricted.
Bowfishing for Carp in Michigan
Michigan has long considered the common carp a nuisance to the state. At the same time, you shouldn’t confuse them with truly invasive species like silver, bighead and black carp, which have rapidly spread throughout Michigan waters and displaced local fish populations.
You can bowfish whatever species of carp you encounter in Michigan streams, and they consider it a fish that you can take without limits. Not everyone likes the flavor of carp, so I put together this article here on what to do with dead carp.
Many think of carp as trash fish, which means meant for the trash can since many don’t want to eat them. However, they have become popular for fly fishing, especially in northern Michigan. In fact, many of them blame the lack of carp on bowfishermen, but the thing that they don’t realize is that carp are an invasive species to our waters anyhow. We don’t want them overtaking our state waters and displacing the native fish populations.
Bowfishing does a public service for our ecosystem because it cleans up the excessive carp. Many bowfishermen will use a light at night to catch the fish. Some follow a rule known as the “Green Tint Rule.” The bass, salmon and trout will often sport a greenish tint to their skin. Don’t shoot. Fish like carp, dogfish and gar will have a brown or gray tint, which means to shoot.
Bowfishing Tournaments in Michigan
You may wonder about the awesome bowfishing tournaments that you can participate in here, and you have some incredible choices when it comes to bowfishing in the state. Check with the Bowfishing Association of Michigan (lovingly known as BAM) since they often host tournaments, and they can give you more information about the upcoming tournaments.
Some of the tournaments that you can participate in include:
- Great Lakes Bowfishing Championship — Caseville, Michigan
- Lake Erie/Detroit Ri. State Championship — Pointe Mouillee State Game Area Headquarter
- Youth Bowfishing Championship — Bay City, Michigan
- Saginaw Bay Shotgun Start — Sebewaing, Michigan
I did my best to find other bowfishing tournaments in the state, but I couldn’t find anything else available. Compared to some other states, the tournaments here aren’t all that many. I can think of other states like Louisiana or Texas where the tournaments pop off throughout the spring and summer seasons.
With that said, the Great Lakes Bowfishing Championship is one of the biggest bowfishing tournaments in the nation. It has gone on for close to 40 years, and it has grown to become one of the most prestigious around. All proceeds from this tournament go toward the Wildlife Education Foundation.
When is the Best Time to Bowfish in Michigan?
The best time to go bowfishing in Michigan will be in the early mornings from June 1 to July 1. That highlights the best time to go out on the water for bowfishing, but you can bowfish in this state year-round. The late spring and throughout the summer season will typically yield the best results, but I’ve known plenty of people who bowfish all year because they love it so much. I’m one of them.
Bowfishing Rivers and Lakes in Michigan
You have some great bowfishing opportunities throughout the state of Michigan since they let you bowfish anywhere. Just practice common sense when bowfishing so that we don’t see the sport unnecessarily restricted. Some of the best rivers and lakes to bowfish on include:
- Shiawassee River
- Flint River
- Lake Kensington
- Mott Lake
- Lake Michigan
- Mona Lake
- Allegan Marsh
- Hardy Pond
- Belleville Lake
- Ford Lake
- Clinton River
In 2019, Tyler Fisher from St. Charles, Michigan, caught the state record fish while bowfishing on the Shiawassee. It weighed 32.01 pounds and measured 38 inches. During the carp spawning season, this area can get quite intense. It’s a great time to show up on the Shiawassee. Check around to see when they will spawn. Many call this river one of the best in the state for bowfishing. It’s worth checking out at least once if you live here.
The Flint River has a reputation for gar—and lots of them! You’d especially come to this river for gar over the carp since many of the carp aren’t all that great of a size. The biggest issue on the Flint comes from its lack of clarity, which you need to make a good shot. Anyone who has never even seen a gar may want to try the Flint.
The advantage of a bow is that you can make a gar eat your bait. With regular fishing, you often catch that fish more by accident, but if you’re going after them intentionally, you can’t find them.
Unlike many of the other rough fish, gar tastes incredible when you cook them right.
Many who want to get started in the sport may want to check out Lake Kensington. Located in southeastern Michigan, you will find the gar and carp all over the lake. You will shoot more carp than you can ever plan to clean. Beware of the laws here since Lake Kensington can be somewhat tricky, and the DNR in the area have been known to cause trouble for bowfishermen.
You can bowfish on Mott Lake, but you must buy a $10 bowfishing pass. You can get it at the office on Stanley Road off Genessee Road. Keep in mind the rules for this lake and ask in advance to ensure that you follow them, and they haven’t changed. The bowfishing pass allows you to bowfish east of Genessee Road, east of the bridge over to Vasser Road.
The one issue with Mott Lake comes from the mud stirred up by the rough fish here. You can take some big carp out of Mott Lake. Many hold it up as another great bowfishing lake in Michigan.
Especially along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, you will shoot some awesome catches. Anything with carp over 45 pounds often come out of Lake Michigan. You might head over to Traverse Bay to shoot some carp.
Here you can check out what bowfishing on one of the Great Lakes looks like:
Located in West Michigan, Mona Lake works well when clear enough to see the fish. Particularly, check out the mouth of Little Black Creek. This lake is 695 acres.
You may want to check out the mud flat further up along the river toward the south end of the lake. When it comes to bowfishing, we look for water between 3 to 4 feet deep since any deeper than that will misdirect our arrows and make us less accurate. For that reason, you want to search out the shallows.
The river area especially seems to have carp much larger than those that you would find in the lake. Check out around M89 Bridge. Another great area to bowfish here is around where Dumont Creek runs in at. Just beware of the trout designated areas.
In some places on Allegan Marsh, they come so thick that you can spot them from 50 yards away. Beware of how you can’t go too far upstream on this one before officials designate it as a trout stream.
Downstream, you won’t have any trouble with this. You can find some monstrous carp on the river part. Eating fish from this river may not be a great choice since the river has a stench to it, and the pollution is pretty bad here. With that said, it can be a fun place to go test your bowfishing skills.
For anyone who wants to shoot on Hardy, shoot far upstream. The issue with farther downstream comes from the instant drop-offs that you may run across, which isn’t a great choice for bowfishing. You need dependable shallow areas to bowfish. You will see a lot of dogfish and carp here.
Check out the area by Oxbow Park and the islands close to Big Ben Park. Up by Brower Park, you won’t see a lot of carp and suckers, but the ones that you do see will be huge. They have some huge common carp here.
Belleville does have a lot of opportunities for bowfishing. Tons of carp in this lake, and for bowfishermen, that means nonstop action. From about 6 pm to 11 pm, this lake’s action kicks into hyperdrive. The DNR drained this lake years ago and restocked it with fish.
A 975-acre lake, Ford Lake is, in fact, an artificial reservoir in Washtenaw County. Ford Lake offers a lot of carp. Some bowfishermen even say that it doesn’t get better than this lake or Belleville.
You can bowfish the Clinton River right from shore, which makes it a great choice for those without a boat. It is a muddy river, which can make shooting on it difficult at times. You might check this one out down by the Fern Hill Golf Course.
Anyone interested in seeing this river in action should check out the video below:
The river holds tons of huge carp.
Michigan has lots of lakes without many restrictions on where you can bowfish. This means that everything becomes an opportunity whether in South Michigan, East Michigan, West Michigan or North Michigan. You have plenty of places where you can bowfish. If coming from out of state, you might book a Michigan bowfishing charter to eliminate the need for a boat. You can still have a great time.
Let’s say that you don’t have a bow to go bowfishing. I put together this awesome list of the 14 Ultimate Best Bowfishing Bows. It’s a great place to start looking for some bowfishing bows. .