Perhaps you have identified a great bowfishing spot that you would like to bowfish, but it sits within city limits. You may feel yourself wondering if you can bowfish here.
Can you bowfish in city limits? Bear Facts and Fish Tales covered this a few years ago. If you have a firearms ordinance enforced in your city, you can assume that it will also be illegal to bowfish in city limits. Most cities have it, but the laws differ in every city.
How to Find out if You Can Bowfish in City Limits
If you want to know if you can bowfish within city limits, one of the best ways that you can find out is by calling up your local police station through the non-emergency landline and ask about it. This gives you the most detailed information on your specific region because it differs from one city to the next.
The other thing is that even outside of city limits, where you can bowfish can differ from region to region or even lake to lake. For that reason, you have to know your area before you go bowfishing there. You might call up the local DNR to get the most up-to-date information on the subject.
Can’t Shoot off Some Bridges
Along with not being allowed to shoot within the city limits of most cities, you also can’t shoot off some bridges because of how they consider it a highway. You have to check this carefully. Even some bridges close to the city limits won’t be the actual problem. The problem is how they won’t let you shoot off a highway bridge. It’s a stupid law, but it still exists.
Keep the Rulebook Nearby
One of the things about this realm of law is that it tends to be less known than some of the other areas. Even the DNR can get things about bowfishing wrong. For that reason, you should keep your rulebook close at hand. While you might never get questioned on it, it’s better to have the rulebook close than to wish you had it.
The other thing that you find is that different DNR officials will tell you different things. For example, one CO might tell you how the city limits end at the water. For that reason, they tell you to go ahead, but you still might want to exercise caution. You want to keep documentation because if anything goes wrong, you’re covered. What you get told could even differ from one officer to the next.
Why I Don’t Bowfish within City Limits
I don’t like doing things where the law gets murky and I may or may not be protected. To bowfish within city limits, I don’t find it worth the trouble. I know about plenty of good bowfishing spots so that I don’t have to resort to some of the locations within city limits.
Each City Follows Different Laws
Here’s the reason why I don’t bowfish within city limits: Every city follows different laws when it comes to bowfishing. One officer might have no problem with you discharging a bow at the fish. It only takes one, however, to say that you were discharging a firearm within city limits.
Granted, you may have grounds to fight it in court, but I don’t find that worth it. I can find plenty of good bowfishing spots without the need to fish within city limits where I might get fined because the DNR had a bad day.
In some places, they might say that because you have a reel on your bow, they consider it fishing equipment. In other cities, they might treat it like a firearm’s discharge within the city. It depends on the laws within that city. If you do decide to do it, check with your local city ordinances to ensure that you remain protected by the law.
The biggest problem here is that you can’t give broad advice on this subject because of how it differs from one city to the next. With 19,495 cities across the United States and these laws subject to change, it’s not practical to list every one of the cities. You have to check your local ordinances.
Steer Clear of Houses
Let’s say that you do decide to bowfish within city limits. If you have made this judgment call, you may want to steer clear of the houses in the area as much as possible. You want to be respectful of everyone around you. Don’t become a nuisance because that is when they change the laws to make it harder for bowfishermen.
In general, you want to be at least 500 feet away from houses or farther.
Some State Laws Protect You
You do have some state laws that will protect you, but this could still be a legal battle that requires hiring a lawyer. That will cost you time and money. If you’re willing to put the money into it, fine, but in some cases, it may not be worth it.
Even if state law does protect you, if you believe that you will run into trouble with the city, you have to decide for yourself if you want to take the risk.
Who Do You Ask?
Well, you could call the local DNR to ask them. For cases like this, however, the law relates to the city. Because of that, you will want to check with the police department. Visit your local department and ask.
Let’s say that the advice given seems questionable or murky. Ask them to run the information past the City Attorney. Look for the state statute that lets you bowfish within city limits. Without the statute, they might automatically say that it illegal.
You will want to do this in advance by several days because of how it can take a while for them to research it.
The bottom line is that if it looks like it might become a headache, you might be better off heading to another lake. Unless you want to put time and money into fighting it, it makes more sense to let it be.
In some cases, you could be in for an uphill battle with little payoff in the end. Some people might choose to fight it, but in my opinion, you have to pick your battles carefully, and Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. There’s plenty of other options for bowfishing in the Northland.
That said, you might live in a place where you find it worth the battle. Each person must make this judgment call for themselves.