You have some people who believe that you can only go bowfishing in the spring and summer time, but can you do it all year round? Bowfishing, for some people like myself, holds a special place in our hearts to where we would love to get involved in the sport all year.
Is bowfishing good in the winter? Bowfishing does change somewhat in the winter season, but you can do bowfishing in the winter months if you love the sport enough. Bowfishing does slow down a bit in the winter time, but you can still shoot some carp and buffalo and suckers.
Beware of Legislation
While nothing stops you naturally from shooting fish out on the water, the law may be another story. An estimated 35 states have made bowfishing legal all year round. Some of the states where they have made it legal include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana and 30 others.
Check your state regulations to see that it is legal in your state first. You have people who like to go out bowfishing every weekend all year to see what they can shoot.
Does the Ice Stop Us up North?
For those of us in states like Minnesota, does the ice that freezes over on lakes and rivers stop us from bowfishing? Well, you look for places where you have open water. In particular, you look for the places where it hasn’t frozen over with the right conditions for bowfishing like shallow water between 3 to 5 feet deep and lots of rough fish.
I also like to look near dams because of how these areas tend to have more open water suitable for shooting carp and suckers in the winter season. Check you local regulations, however, because they don’t allow bowfishing in all areas.
The other thing that we can do is to cut a hole in the ice like we were spearing pike. You might use a portable fish house as a dark house, cut a hole and wait for the carp to show up before loosing your arrows on them. The one thing to be aware of, depending on where you go, you may have to watch how big of a hole you cut because of regulations in different states.
After you have finished, please leave some branches in the hole to mark it because of how you don’t want someone to accidentally fall in. Blown snow can cover the hole so that you don’t see it. Please be considerate of everyone while on the water, and don’t endanger anyone’s life.
Bowfishing in the Winter
The fish can somewhat change in the winter. During the colder months, they will slow down, and you won’t see them as active during this time. If you were fishing with a hook, that might be a problem because they will go after the bait more slowly.
Lucky for you, you don’t depend on the bait to catch your fish. You simply spot the fish and put an arrow through it. They don’t get a choice if they bite or not. It has many similarities to spearing fish in where you don’t have to depend on their fickleness and whether they will bite.
If interested in getting a better bowfishing bow, check out the article that I wrote here on the best bowfishing bows. It’s also fun to just look at the different bows available.
What Differs from Winter Bowfishing to Summer Bowfishing?
Like I said, the fish behavior differs a great deal. In Minnesota, we also sometimes do it from our fish houses, rather than boats in the winter. The other difference is that you will wear bulkier clothes than in the summer season. Depending on what state you live, the clothes could be a lot bulkier to fend off the cold.
Getting out on the water can also be more difficult if you plant to go bowfishing on a boat. In some places, it can be tough to find open water, and even when you do, you can’t use a traditional landing.
In the winter season, you will notice fewer bowfishermen slinging arrows at the carp and suckers and other fish. That’s the other difference. Some bowfishermen don’t even realize that they could do bowfishing in the winter. Not to say that you don’t have them, but only the few proud and lone surviving bowfishermen make it to this point. Everyone else has gone to less heroic sports like ice fishing or other activities.
Bring a Portable Heater
You should bring along a portable heater in the winter, especially in the colder states. This can offer you the chance to warm up as needed. That’s the other advantage of bowfishing from a fish house is that you can leave the heater running the whole time to stay warm.
If your hands start getting cold, that can be a big problem with bowfishing because you need your hands agile to shoot the bow. You put your hands in front of the heater, and they will thaw out. Meanwhile, if you happen to see a fish come swimming past, you can take a shot at them.
Mr. Heater MH12B will keep you warm and toasty throughout your bowfishing trip. In fact, the high setting was too much even for Minnesota cold at -10 Fahrenheit.
Why Some People Choose Not to Bowfish in the Winter
I’ve known some people who loved bowfishing, but they refused to do it in the winter. They’d rather do ice fishing. You do have less activity from the fish, and this can make bowfishing more difficult. They seem more out of reach.
The other reason came from how the clothes they wore were too bulky, and they got in the way of their shots with the bow. You can’t, however, go without heavy coats in the winter, and that can make taking the shots more difficult.
People also don’t bowfish in the winter because of how they don’t even realize that they could go bowfishing during this time. Depending on where you live, it is legal in most states, so why not at least give it a try?
Greater Depth with the Fish
In the summer season, a lot of the fish that you shoot will be swimming close to the surface. During the winter season, the fish will sometimes go deeper, which can pose somewhat of a problem to bowfishermen because of how, the closer to the surface, the better. It puts less of a barrier between our arrow and the fish, and it increases our chances of arrowing them.
The winter season does offer up a different kind of game that can take some practice for you to get used to to it. You will have to develop a sense of how to shoot the fish in the winter.
Here’s another thing to consider–light refraction. In the winter months, the fish will be deeper. In terms of light refraction, that means that you will have to aim even lower than usual to hit the fish. Remember, the deeper the fish, the lower you will have aim. This can take some practice, but you will get used to it.
Best Time to Bowfish in the Winter
This largely depends on the state that you live in. I’ve known bowfishermen from Ohio who said that all their bowfishing took place during the night hours in the winter. In Minnesota and many of the other states, your best time will usually be between 10 am to 2:30 pm.
That’s because the sun will usually be at its brightest during this time, and it will be warmer for bowfishing. In Minnesota, in the heart of winter time, it starts to get dark around 4:25 pm to 4:30 pm, so it gets dark fast here in the winter months.
Positively Identify Each Fish Before Shooting
The winter time can make the fish congregate differently, and it can be harder to identify the fish as well. Take the time to clearly identify the fish before you take the shots. In this way, you don’t have to worry that you will accidentally shoot a walleye and make yourself the potential subject of a hefty DNR fine. You want to first identify the fish.
Luckily, in most states, you can bowfish all year round. It might change somewhat from how you bowfish during the other seasons, but you aren’t stopped in most of the states.
However, I would advise you to please check with your local game warden first. I’m by no means an expert on the law, and even less so when it comes to the different states. You need to check with your local game warden to get the most up-to-date information. What I’m trying to provide here is a general outline.
If you’re looking for a good bow, the Cajun Fish Stick Take-Down Bowfishing Bow makes for a great choice. For anyone just getting started in the sport, you will see a big difference with your bowfishing game. The other cool thing about this set is how you get everything that you need.