Bowfishing for catfish can be a lot of fun. Depending on where you live, however, it could be illegal. You should first check with your local DNR to make sure that it isn’t illegal to shoot catfish in your area. With that said, let’s have a look at how you can go bowfishing for catfish.
First, I’d like to highlight that you should bowfish for catfish responsibly. No matter where you live, you should eat what you catch or give it to someone who likes to eat catfish.
On occasion, bowfishermen have gotten a bad rep because of how they’d shoot a truck full of carp and not eat them. That said, carp overpopulate the waters in America and a lot of people don’t think they taste good, which is why they’ve been wasted.
Most people like the taste of catfish, and in some places like Louisiana and Texas, catfish have become somewhat of a delicacy. Please, if you’re going to bowfish catfish, then eat what you catch or give it to someone who will. As long as you use the fish, most people don’t care, but they hate to see it go to waste. I will always highlight the importance of this. Bowfishing doesn’t allow for catch and release because when you put the arrow through the fish, it will die.
Much Like Regular Bowfishing
Personally, the way that I like to bowfish for catfish is through not even necessarily targeting them. Usually, when I bowfish for catfish, I’m targeting carp, but if I see a catfish come along under water, I might take a shot at it. Like when I fish for sunfish, I don’t necessarily catch bass on purpose, but you occasionally get one at the end of your line, and it’s a nice change of pace. Same with bowfishing catfish.
The one thing that you have to understand about bowfishing catfish is that it may not be the easiest thing. Think about it. How often have you seen catfish in the shallows? You don’t see it too often. That said, you don’t normally bowfish in water deeper than 6 feet because of how the arrow slows down at that point, and you will be less likely to penetrate the fish.
Even when you do spot a catfish sunning himself in the shallows, you still have to take the shot. That’s why I often go after carp and gar with catfish as more of a secondary target.
Taking Aim at the Catfish
Bowfishing isn’t necessarily an easy sport. Once you have spotted the catfish in the water, you will have to get close enough without scaring him. To do that, you may find it helpful to buy a pair of polarized sunglasses. Oakley Men’s Oo9236 Valve Rectangular Sunglasses is a good set because of how, while it does cost more than some of the cheaper pairs, I guarantee you will see the catfish in the water much easier than without.
Considering how a lot of Oakley sunglasses usually go for around $180 to $200, this is a good pair. You can’t go wrong, and it will help you to see the catfish in the water.
After you have gotten yourself a good pair of polarized sunglasses to see the catfish in the water better, you will take aim with your bow. Be prepared for taking light refraction into account. In addition, you will have to account for light refraction as you aim. This means that the catfish won’t be exactly where you see it in the water. Compensate for that when you take aim.
When you go to take shots at catfish, the shots will be closer than if you were deer hunting. The struggle comes from light refraction, and you will have to practice on underwater targets to get a sense for it. You can’t practice on regular targets because bowfishing for catfish will differ from other forms of using the bow.
How to Increase Your Chances
To increase your chances of bowfishing catfish, you may find it useful to know where they hide. Let’s have a look at some of the places where you can find catfish.
When looking for catfish in a river, you should look for the catfish in the rocky or sandy riverbed. In places with a current, look for areas where the current tends to calm down. A lot of fish tend to hide in places like this for rest, or like a predatory catfish, they might be waiting for their next meal.
Look for the Food Sources
If you want to know how to bowfish for catfish, look for the places where they will feed. Wherever the catfish like to feed, you can bet that they won’t be too far from the food. Some of the things that catfish eat include:
- Threadfin shad
- Skipjack herring
- Gizzard shad
- Freshwater muscles
Beware of Big Catfish
Nothing more exciting than putting an arrow through a big delicious catfish. With that said, you have to beware of after you have done this. Big catfish might take a moment where they seem inactive, but they will suddenly thrash and squirm and do everything in their power to move around. This can create big problems if you don’t stay alert to it. Whenever you handle catfish, exercise caution.
Bowfish Catfish at Night
You might find some periods where a catfish might act reasonably active during the day, but in general, I’d recommend that you go after them during the night hours. Catfish tend to hunt more during the night hours, which increases your chances that you will see them.
To be clear, I’ve seen plenty of catfish during the day, but you have better chances at night because most catfish species are nocturnal. That said, you can see them more often running around at night.
The other advantage of hunting for catfish at night is that you can use your bowfishing lights to illuminate them. A lot of bowfishermen, like myself, prefer to do bowfishing at night because of how you can spot the fish easier. You know when you see them at night because it is unmistakeable under the light. Some bowfisherman like to go after catfish during the day, however, because it is a greater challenge.
Bowfish in the Rivers
Bowfishing for catfish on the rivers works even better because of how you can spot them more often. Not to mention, you can find rivers more shallow that are ideal for bowfishing. Always remember, you can’t bowfish in too deep of water.
One of the places where I like to check for catfish comes from the confluence of two rivers. Catfish love to hunt for food here, and they will often use the advantage of the fish coming from two different streams. Look for the mudlines if you want to find the catfish because they will sometimes hide here. They often use an area like this to sniff out their next snack while they hide.
The other place where you can check for them on a river is around bends. They will often hide in areas like this to hunt for prey, or they might wait here as a way to rest away from the current.
You drastically improve your chances of shooting a catfish if you decide to hunt for them on the river. The catfish come in a much higher abundance, and it has an advantage for bowfishing catfish because of how the water tends to be shallower. That’s the ideal environment for bowfishing. You can’t shoot a catfish if they go out too deep.
Other Locations Where I Have Found Catfish
Some of the other places where I might go if I want to bowfish for catfish include:
- Sunken structures
- Underwater trees
- Creek mouths
- Tails of holes
Especially since you will see catfish less often than what you see carp, you should practice your target shooting if you want to hit your target at the right moment. As the saying goes, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” Practice your shots on the lake a bit so that you don’t miss when the opportunity arrives.
If you want to know how to aim for catfish in the water, I’d give you the advice to try to miss the next fish low. You will aim lower than the fish to account for light refraction. It takes some practice to get used to, but once you arrow your first catfish, you will be hooked.
No Need to Draw All the Way Back
With bowfishing, the fish will often be right on top of you. You make shots from only a few yards away, which means that you don’t have to pull all the way back. The shot will normally be about 20 yards away. If you happen to draw the bow all the way back, it can also make you overthink. Don’t overthink bowfishing.
I like recurve bows for bowfishing because of how I can make snap shots more easily. That is part of what bowfishing is about. For this, I like the Southland SAS Archery Bow. It’s an excellent bow for beginners, and becauseo of its lightweight design, a lot of parents have found it to be a good choice for their kids. If you’re a parent, this could be a good starter.
Start with Carp Instead of Catfish
The way that I would recommend you begin is by going for carp at first. I usually just take the catfish when I see them, but I’m usually going after grass carp. Especially as a beginner bowfisherman, you will find it helpful because these fish are more abundant. When you first get started bowfishing, you might be lucky if one fish out of every 50 shots. Don’t get discouraged because that is completely normal.
Bowfishing for catfish can be a lot of fun, especially once you arrow your first big one. It puts up an incredible fight, and it feels so good to bring him into the boat. Again, I only advocate for responsible bowfishing practice. Don’t waste any fish that you shoot because this makes the whole sport look bad. Some anglers think we waste fish, but you have plenty of people who get a few good meals off of what they shoot. It’s no different than angling and taking home the fish for a good fish fry. Nothing better than fried catfish.