Maybe you have thought about doing bowfishing, but you wondered to yourself if spearfishing makes more sense. I’m not going to tell anyone what to do, but I will highlight the differences between the two types of fishing and outline what makes each sport worth checking out. Given enough time, you might do both, but maybe you only have the budget for one right now. Let’s have a look at bowfishing versus spearfishing.
Cost: Which One Costs Less?
If you have a tight budget, you might start with spearfishing because it costs less to get started. On the higher end, you’ll pay a little under $100, but you can buy a spear for under $50. I’d recommend the Scuba Choice 5′ One Piece Spearfishing Fiber Glass Pole for those on a tight budget. This costs less to get started than if you did bowfishing, unless you already have a bow.
Bowfishing, on the other hand, will cost as much or as little as you want, but you can figure that it will cost over $100 to get started at least, unless you buy a used bow. That doesn’t include if you get the boat and bowfishing lights. If you already have a bow, then you don’t need to pay for that, but you will need to buy special bowfishing arrows at the least, and while you can buy a bowfishing reel, you can also make your own reel to keep the costs low. Still, bowfishing will most likely cost you more to get started in than what spearfishing will cost.
Difficulty: Bowfishing vs Spearfishing
If I had say which one is harder, I’d give it to bowfishing without a question. Spearfishing still has to account for light refraction, but I feel like aiming with a bow takes more skill and practice than with a spear because you have more control over it. Once you get used to light refraction, spearfishing doesn’t pose the same level of challenge.
Don’t get me wrong because spearfishing does still offer its share of challenges, but bowfishing requires a steadier aim that is harder to achieve because your release with the bow can impact your aim.
With bowfishing, you can usually expect to miss your first 50 shots as a beginner: You can do it in less, but it’s uncommon. Still, you have a lot of fun doing it. Spearfishing is a little easier to where you might spear your first fish at the 15 to 20 shots mark.
Ethics: Which is Better?
I don’t see either bowfishing or spearfishing as superior to the other because with both of them, you kill the fish. You can’t practice catch and release with either sport, and it is illegal to throw fish back like this. With that said, is that supposed to be a bad thing? I’ve never been a catch and release kind of fisherman, and I have the same approach with spearfishing and bowfishing.
Either one has the potential to be bad if you just shoot the fish and discard them to rot near the boat landing, but most people who shoot fish with either bow or spear don’t do that. You might have a small selection of people who do, but it accounts for a small portion of the population. I always tell people to be responsible as fishermen, bowfishermen and spearfishermen.
We are stewards of the environment. It doesn’t matter what type of fishing you do, never waste the life of the fish.
Who Can Catch More Species of Fish?
Without a question, I’d give this to spearfishing because of how you can spearfish for more species than what you can with a bow. With bowfishing, the DNR only lets you shoot the rough fish except under certain circumstances. For example, if you live in New Mexico, you don’t have restrictions on species, and you can bowfish any type of fish that you’d like, but in most places like Minnesota, you can only shoot certain species like carp and suckers.
With spearfishing, you get a slightly greater variety in the number of fish that you can spear. You can mostly only spear rough fish, but in Minnesota, you can spear northern pike, carp and suckers. Keep in mind, however, what you can spear will also depend on where you live, so like with bowfishing you need to check the local regulations carefully. In Florida, you can’t do spearfishing in freshwater.
Personally, I don’t get why they have this difference that lets spearfishermen take pike while bowfishermen can’t, except it puts the focus of bowfishermen more on invasive fish species like the Asian carp, which helps us to control these plague-like fish populations. Again, always check your local regulations, but in general, I have found that spearfishing tends to be a little more lax in its regulations.
Spearfishing vs Bowfishing: Which One is More Dangerous?
This question largely depends on whether you do spearfishing on freshwater or saltwater because I’ve watched saltwater spearfishing on Youtube and found it different to freshwater. In Minnesota, where we don’t have any saltwater, spearfishing isn’t really dangerous. You could wander into a dangerous part of the river and drown, but that is nothing in comparison to saltwater spearfishing.
With saltwater spearfishing, you can encounter a variety of dangers. You could encounter sharks, jellyfish, strong currents and shallow water blackouts. You have to always remain aware of your environment when saltwater spearfishing. It has a reputation as an extreme sport.
Bowfishing, on the other hand, does have its share of dangers, but I would argue that you have less than with saltwater spearfishing. To give an example, you have to watch out when shooting so that the fishing line doesn’t tangle with the bowstring and shoot the arrow back at you. You can eliminate this risk easily with using a safety slide, however, which you should use. It costs little, but it keeps you safe.
You can use the GPP Bowfishing Arrows Safety Slides Kit to stay safe when you bowfish. Outside that, you do have the danger of drowning as well, but the probability isn’t terribly high. Still, you should always take precautions when out in the boat.
Especially if you’re using a speargun, the dangers increase. Never, ever point a speargun at someone for any reason. Accidental spearings have happened occasionally. With spearfishing, you should also be aware of having a bunch of bloody fish on your stringer. Sharks aren’t out to get you, but at the same time, they can smell blood for up to a quarter of a mile. You don’t want to attract the sharks.
Which Has More Action?
I’ve done both spearfishing and bowfishing, and I’d say that bowfishing had a lot more fast-action, blood pumping, hair-raising action. With bowfishing, you have to aim, and at the same time, you can’t aim too slowly because the fish will disappear before you draw and shoot. It is harder to pull off with a bow than a spear or spear gun. That said, it makes bowfishing feel like it has more action. I love the adrenaline of when I see a fish pop up in my line of shooting.
With spearfishing in Minnesota, you often go after pike, and you can only take two pike per session. On the other hand, with bowfishing, I have known bowfishermen who have taken home entire trucks full of a carp. You don’t have a limit on how many carp you can shoot. This makes it a lot more fun. Granted, you don’t have the limit on spearing carp either, but in my experience bowfishing just has a greater rush.
Bowfishing vs Spearing: When is It Done?
With either type of fishing, you can do them at any hour, but you do have certain preferences for each of them. For example, us bowfishermen prefer to do bowfishing at night in many cases because it makes spotting the fish easier. We will bowfish with a number of bowfishing lights to help illuminate where the fish might be hiding.
In addition, with bowfishing at night, you will use a generator to help with seeing where the fish are at. This can get kind of noisy with the wrong generator. On the other hand, you have spearfishermen. Most spearfishermen don’t like to go spearing at night because of the much greater difficulty. When you go spearfishing at night, you will only use a flashlight to light up the water, and this can be much harder than simply doing it during the day.
With bowfishing, you can do bowfishing during the day, but a lot of bowfishermen find this harder and steer away from it because you can’t see as far away with the sun glinting off the water. Myself, I tend to bowfish almost exclusively at night because I like the peace, and I find it easier to shoot the fish. That said, you do have some bowfishermen who will do it during the day.
Bowfishing vs Spearfishing: Where is Each Most Popular?
With spearfishing, you will find it popular in places like Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Panama, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. With bowfishing, one of the most popular places for the sport is down near the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and you will find it most popular in the South, but you can find pockets of people who do it throughout the United States. I’m one who does it up in Minnesota, and I know plenty of other bowfishermen.
Type of Water
With bowfishing, you will bowfish in almost exclusively shallow water because that is where your arrows will be the most effective. The farther down the arrows reach, the less piercing your shots will be. For that reason, you don’t bowfish in anything but water between 3 feet to 5 feet.
On the other hand, spearfishing does have a type where you do spearing in shallow water, but it lends itself to more flexibility. You can go into deeper waters with spearfishing. In some cases, people do freediving while doing spearfishing at the same time. You don’t necessarily have to do that, however, and in Minnesota, I’ve honestly never encountered this type of spearfishing.
Licensing and Requirements
Here’s where bowfishing has another advantage over spearfishing. While in many cases, you just need a fishing license to do spearfishing, you may need to buy additional “add-ons” when you go spearfishing. That would most likely mean that if you wanted to spear a certain species of fish, you would need to buy an additional add-on. Again, this differs from state to state, and it could even differ from region to region. you have to check with your local DNR to make sure.
I like bowfishing because I’ve never heard of this type of thing with bowfishing. While it could exist, I’ve never heard of add-ons with bowfishing. You simply buy a fishing license, and you will be good to go for bowfishing. With that said, check your state and local regulations because this differs from one place to the next.
Still, I find the regulations around spearfishing a lot more nuance, and it has the potential to give you more problems if you don’t check the local regulations before going.
Hopefully this has shed some light on bowfishing vs spearfishing. Both can be incredibly exhilarating sports, and I have fun with both sports. That said, I tend to lean more in the direction of drawing back my bow and piercing carp with an arrow, rather than a spear. Getting started, spearfishing is a little bit easier, but nothing compares to the fast-paced action of being out on the water and taking a snapshot on the bow at the fish. It takes more skill to learn bowfishing, but you can have a blast learning it.
If you’re looking for a good bowfishing bow for your next trip, you might check out the Cajun Fish Stick Take-Down. This is a good bow to get started with bowfishing if you’re new to the sport. In addition, it comes with a Piranha Point arrow, which lets you remove the arrows from the fish more easily.