Perhaps you just took up the sport of bowfishing, and you find yourself wondering how to improve in it fast. You have a few key things to understand about bowfishing that can help you to do better. Let’s have a look at some of the most important things to help beginners shoot more fish.
Tip #1: Aim for Light Refraction
As a beginner, you most likely think that you simply aim the bow at the fish to hit it. No way, Jose! Bowfishing requires that you account for light refraction. What that means is that the light distorts the placement of the fish. You will want to aim a little lower than where you see the fish to hit it dead-on.
Pretend like you want to miss the fish, and you may find that you hit it more. Believe me, this takes some practice, and you may even miss your first 40 to 50 shots, but once you start hitting them, it’s even more rewarding than regular fishing that way.
Tip #2: Don’t Bring Your Best Bow
Whenever you start bowfishing, I would never tell someone to bring their best whitetail bow because of how bowfishing differs from regular hunting. With bowfishing, your bow will bang around in the boat and get beaten up pretty bad. You don’t want that being your best bow.
You might even choose a bow that specializes in bowfishing. The PSE ARCHERY D3 Bowfishing Compound Bow is a good bow for accomplishing that. Adjust the compound can handle as needed, since it’s highly adjustable, and you get pure precision that makes this a deadly choice.
This bow hands you the complete package. It feels super comfortable and lightweight to make the experience even better. The other thing I like about this bow–made in the USA. The quality shows on this bow!
Tip #3: Know the Fish That You Can Bowfish
As a beginner, you may have the mistaken assumption that you can simply bowfish anything. I used to think this before I got involved in it. In fact, if you go bowfishing, you have a select number of fish that you might choose for bowfishing.
Some of the most common fish that you can target include:
- Alligator Gar
- Common Carp
- Grass Carp
- Asian Carp
Tip #4: Bowfish at Night
You can certainly choose to go bowfishing during the day, but I know more bowfishermen who prefer to bowfish at night. I myself prefer to bowfish at night because of how much easier it becomes to spot the fish. It is unbelievably easier to bowfish at night for them because the bowfishing lights will put the light on them and make them easier to see.
At night, the shots you take from the boat will be even closer to the boat than during the day because you will have limited visibility. That said, many of the shots happen close to the boat anyway. You don’t usually take shots any farther than 20 yards with bowfishing.
Tip #5: Mount the Lights Below Your Platform
Perhaps some of the most valuable advice that you will come across if you do bowfishing at night, you want to mount the bowfishing lights below your platform, not above them. Why?
If you mount the lights above your platform, you will have trouble with the bugs eating you all night. If you mount them below the platform, in this way, they will be attracted to the lights, but they won’t bother you as much. It can make a big difference in the kind of night that you experience.
Tip #6: Go with a Buddy
If you want to get good fast as a beginner to bowfishing, you will want to take along a buddy who knows the sport. They can give you some up close and personal tips and tricks that will make you a much better bowfisherman.
This was how I improved in bowfishing was I went along with my buddy Rob. Rob had been bowfishing for over six years at that point, and he was an expert at showing me the ropes. He gave me insider tips that helped me to improve in the sport with real-time practice.
Tip #7: Use a Bowfishing Slide
You may have heard of some of the dangers of bowfishing. That said, you can avoid many of the dangers through using a bowfishing slide. This means that the string doesn’t attach directly to the arrow.
The danger of having the arrow tied to the string directly is that if the string gets tied up with the bowstring, it can send the arrow shooting back at you. This has killed people and given the sport a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve.
To get beyond this problem, the AMS Bowfishing 5/16 inch EverGlide Safety Slide works well to keep you safe. As a beginner, you may not even be aware of this, but it is important to know about. My buddy Rob was one of the first people to tell me about it. That is the other reason, it’s so good to take a friend along.
Tip #8: Buy a Pair of Polarized Sunglasses
A good pair of polarized sunglasses can make all the difference if you go bowfishing during the day because of how it eliminates the glare of the sun off the water. In fact, I would prefer not to even go fishing during the day without a good pair.
The one thing to remember with polarized sunglasses is that you often get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap $25 pair, you won’t see below the surface of the water as effectively, which can mean that you miss opportunities.
One recommended pair is Maui Jim Bamboo Forest Wrap Sunglasses. Not only does it protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, but it eliminates the hard glare coming off the water, and you have scratch-resistant glasses with waterproofing on them. If you’d like, you can also choose to make these prescription. They’re lightweight and feel comfortable on the face.
Tip #9: Mark the Hotspots on Your GPS
Beginners may not realize that they should mark the hotspots on the GPS. This can help them to come back to bowfishing spots where they shot carp, and in fact, it will give you the exact coordinates. You can search for them on your own, but this cuts down on the time spent looking for your favorite spots.
Not to mention, if you do bowfishing at night, it can be difficult to know exactly where you were fishing last time. In this way, you can track the position of the fish more easily.
Some of the fishing apps that I’d recommend for marking your bowfishing spots include:
- Fish Rules
- Fishing Points
Tip #10: Easier to Shoot Carp After Dark
In general, you can usually shoot carp after dark better because this fish doesn’t spook as easily after dark. During the day, it doesn’t take much to spook them. As a beginner bowfisherman, you will find that we especially go after carp.
Carp are an invasive species in the United States that have become a huge problem because of how they have few natural predators, and they eat up much of the local aquatic life while becoming competition for the native species. Because of that, bowfishermen do a service when they shoot carp.
Tip #11: Know the Species You Hunt
As a beginner bowfisherman, one of the best things that you can do is to understand the types of fish that you hunt. For example, know what they eat, and you can often find them. Catfish, for example, feed on insects, algae, crawfish and plants. They eat many different things.
You look at what they eat because you can follow the food chain. For example, the catfish will never prove far from things like this. That makes them a much easier target when you know the things that they eat. You can go to their favorite hangout spots.
Tip #12: Check the Lily Pads
Many times, you will see the lily pads with irregular movement if a fish bumps up against it. This can reveal the hidden carp to you. You may not even see them, otherwise. Just because you can’t see the fish doesn’t mean they don’t hide there. You have many cases where they will come out suddenly.
Especially grass carp, they have a reputation for eating the leaves of the lily pads. Don’t make fast movements. While you might feel excited at the sight of a fish, move slowly and take your time. They will most likely still be there. Take your time so as not to scare the fish away.
Tip #13: Look for the Spawning Grounds
One of the most fun things as a beginner is to hit the spawning grounds of the carp. You will find this time rife with activity. Carp spawning happens from March 15th through to August 15, which provides you with ample opportunity to take some shots at them. This fish needs to have its numbers controlled.
With many of the other fish populations, they don’t need to have their numbers controlled, which makes it illegal to catch them during that time. Bass and northern are one example of protected fish.
As the carp spawn, you can spot their spawning grounds easily because they throw up a lot of mud, and they make the water unclear. Usually, you will find them in the shallow and the weedy bay areas. In some cases, you might see several males with a single female. You will want to seek water between 2-foot to 3-foot deep.
Here’s an expert tip for bowfishing carp while spawning: Shoot for the splashes. You can usually hit one this way, and I’ve had buckets of fun doing this.
Tip #14: Shallow Areas
Bowfishermen don’t shoot in water deeper than 5 feet in most cases. You will rarely take shots at fish in deeper water. That’s because of how the arrow penetrates the water better the shallower it is. The deeper the water gets, the lower your chances of skewering a fish at the end of your arrow. The water serves as a barrier to slow down your arrow.
If you want to know why bowfishing arrows are heavier, that is the reason why.
Tip #15: Use Bright Colored Arrows
I like to use colors like neon green, orange or yellow because of how I can see the arrows more easily. I can spot where the arrow hit in the water. In doing this, it can tell you if you should pull hard on the arrow when reeling in or if you should reel it in gently because of how you only nicked the fish.
You don’t want them to pull free from it. If you pull too hard, you will set them free. The other problem with the fish getting off is that they will die. Once you have hit a fish with an arrow, even if it gets away, it will still die. You have to know exactly where you hit them because of how this can be an advantage.
If you hit them at the front of the gills, this can be easier to pull them in. On the other hand, if you only nicked it on the side, you will want to reel it in gently.
Tip #16: More Fun from a Boat
You might see some bowfishermen who say that you can catch them from shore while bowfishing, but myself and many others find bowfishing far more fun from a boat. If you don’t have a boat, you can use something as simple as a kayak to catch them. You don’t need anything special to go bowfishing.
The beauty of this sport is that you can make it as expensive or as affordable as what you’d like. You don’t have to pay much for it. Bowfishing during the day is often a little more simple, and you don’t need as much gear to pull it off, which is the beauty of bowfishing during the day.
Tip #17: What You Wear Matters
Believe it or not, the fish can tell when you are out of the water and look unnatural. While fish aren’t the smartest bulbs on the tree, they can tell when something in their environment is off. They will vanish before you can get a shot off if they sense that something isn’t right with the environment.
For that reason, I often use earthy colors when bowfishing from the shore. If I’m bowfishing from a high angle where they will only see the sky, I will wear a light blue shirt to blend in with the sky. Don’t forget this because it can make a big difference in your fishing.
Tip #18: What You Need
When you go bowfishing, you only have a couple things that you must have, and you have a few things that are nice to have. The key things that you should never leave your house without is a rod and reel. In addition, don’t forget your bowfishing arrows. You need special heavy arrows because of how the arrows will break the water more easily in this way.
You don’t need any kind of special bow when you go bowfishing. In fact, any bow will do, but I wouldn’t recommend that you bring along your favorite deer hunting bow because of how bowfishing can be hard on bows.
Next, if you plan to go out on the water, you will need a boat. You don’t necessarily need a boat, but it can make the experience way more fun. With the boat, if you plan to bowfish at night, you will also need to have lights and a generator to power those lights.
The Champion Power Equipment 100692 2000-Watt Ultralight Portable Inverter Generator is a great choice as far as generators go. For the lights, the Rigid Industries 120312 would work well as bowfishing lights. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bowfishing lights brand than what you get from Rigid Industries. They’re an awesome choice.
Tip #19: Dress for the Weather
Nothing ends a bowfishing trip faster than not having enough clothing with. Even if you can muster through it, the experience is highly unpleasant. We Minnesotans up in the Northland have a saying that while you can always dress down, you can’t dress up if you didn’t bring it.
We get used to sayings like this because of how Minnesota ranks as the coldest state in the nation, seconded only to Alaska.
However, with that said, I’d like to take the time to highlight something important. When you go to take your shots, you don’t want the layers of clothing to interfere with your shots. You need to wear things that won’t get in the way of taking accurate shots at the fish. Because of that, I often use a coat that was tailored to bowfishing because it makes the experience much easier.
Tip #20: Be a Responsible Bowfisherman
As a beginner bowfisherman, you should understand the ethics of the sport. Please take home what you shoot and never dump it off at the boat landing. This gives all of us bowfishermen a bad reputation.
At times, bowfishermen have gotten the undeserved–and sometimes deserved–reputation of being wasteful. They toss the fish that they kill right off at the boat landing where they rot and stink up the place. Imagine trying to launch the boat in that. Please, take them home and eat them if you can to make the most use out of the fish. If you can’t eat them, give them away to someone who likes the taste of that fish. The key is to act responsibly as a bowfisherman like you would with regular fishing.
Hopefully you have found some of these bowfishing tips helpful to getting started as a bowfisherman. You can have a lot of fun with this sport. First, go out with a buddy to see if this is the type of sport that you would like to get involved in. He can also give you pointers along the way, and the thrill of a competition makes it even more fun. Sometimes even when you didn’t shoot anything, it can salvage the situation that your friend got something–even if it is bragging rights over your head.