Saltwater bowfishing differs from freshwater bowfishing. After you have gone bowfishing in saltwater, you should wash your arrows because this helps to preserve them. Saltwater can corrode the arrow. Let’s look at the types of saltwater fish that you can shoot.
What Fish Can I Bowfish on Saltwater?
To give you a picture of the fish that you can bowfish, they include:
Perhaps the most popular saltwater fish that bowfishermen go after is the stingray. With rod-and-reel anglers, they often release them back into the water because they don’t realize that the white flesh tastes delicious. Bowfishermen often don’t have the option to practice catch and release since their arrows will kill the fish—the only exception to that being stingrays. You might compare the mild flavor of stingray to that of scallops.
The one thing with stingray is take care not to overcook the meat, or it won’t taste as good. Also, the larger stingray over 22 pounds have a stronger flavor that some people may not like. In terms of the edible parts of the stingray, it includes the wings, which are often the most desired part and the liver. This has a strong fishy flavor which not everyone likes. However, some believe that it contains nutrients like DHA essential for brain health.
Best Saltwater Bowfishing Bow
The best saltwater bowfishing bow is much like the regular one. The only big difference is that you need to wash off the bow at the end of each bowfishing session to protect the bow and string from corrosion. For that reason, you don’t have a special bow that you need for saltwater. Instead, I would recommend buying a regular and protecting it. If you’d like to learn more about the best bowfishing bows, I put together this awesome list of the Ultimate 14 Best Bowfishing Bows.
In terms of choosing the right bow for saltwater, first look at your budget. You can pay a lot for a bow, such as the compound bows which tend to cost more, but you can also bow the less expensive recurve. Both will work as long as you have the reel and the correct arrows for the sport. Bowfishing arrows differ from regular arrows.
How to Find the Best Saltwater Bowfishing Spots
Wherever you go bowfishing, check ahead of time to see where the other saltwater bowfishermen like to go in your state. You might check with a guide as well since they can show you the most popular spots. The ocean is a large place in comparison to freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. This hands you a whole new level of freedom, but it can also make it more intimidating when first starting.
A guide will typically cost anywhere from $300 to $600 depending on the size of your group and the charter that you go with. You can tell how popular the area is for bowfishing based on the number of guides that pop up.
If you don’t want to pay the money to hire a guide, you can also check with a friend who bowfishes on saltwater. In some cases, you may even find that better because they will take you to lesser-known spots. With a guide, they might take you to a spot where they take everyone else. If enough people bowfish in that area, it can lower how many fish are there.
Saltwater Bowfishing Tips
Tip #1 Be Careful of the Stingray: If you do decide to target the stingray, exercise caution and make sure that you know how to pull them off safely. Stingray have a dangerous barb on their tail that has impaled people to death. In fact, this is the same creature that killed Steve Irwin, the famous crocodile hunter. You must know how to take them off safely before you should do this one.
Tip #2 Take Advantage of the Larger Saltwater Fish: Unlike with freshwater, you have decent-sized targets when it comes to bowfishing in saltwater. For example, the sheepshead has become a popular saltwater target because of its size and tasty flavor. To make it even easier, many of these fish will congregate in schools making them a target to where you can shoot at the school and still hit a fish. It makes bowfishing even easier.
Tip #3 Grab a Pair of Polarized Sunglasses: A lot of saltwater bowfishing happens during the day because of the dangers of doing it at night. You don’t see as many people going out on the ocean for bowfishing at night. Due to that, you may want to grab a pair polarized sunglasses to help you see the fish better for shooting. A more expensive pair will often pay off later in terms of how well you can see. I wrote an article here about the best polarized sunglasses for bowfishing.
Tip #4 Identify Your Target Before Shooting: The danger of saltwater is especially more common because of how you have many fish species in the ocean. You must take the right amount of time to identify your target before you take the shot. In states like Florida, it’s illegal to have a bowfishing bow and a game fish in the same boat and will result in a fine.
Bowfishing Saltwater Alligators
I’d like to highlight how you can also hunt for saltwater alligators in some states like Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. Check your local regulations because this can differ from one state to the next with how you go about it. It is always advisable to check before bowfishing because of how the laws can change.
While I’ve never gone bowfishing for alligators, it looks like a blast. If you do decide to hunt alligators, it would be advisable to hire an expert guide. These animals pose a danger to the unskilled, and you don’t want the hunter to become the hunted. Alligators kill an average of one person per year.
It is advised that you have a buddy along when shooting alligator to take a second shot to kill it after you have put it at the end of your arrow. You never want to get too close and personal with it.
In case you’d like to see how much fun bowfishing for alligator is and what it looks like, check out the video below:
Other Targets: Carp, Gar, Alligator Gar
The one thing that wasn’t mentioned was you can still shoot for carp, gar and alligator gar in saltwater. You don’t find alligator gar or gar in saltwater as much, but the fish can be found here from time to time, and you can still shoot it like you would in freshwater.
In addition, you can shoot carp in saltwater. You have the Tribolodon species, which tolerates saltwater, and you have several other species of carp that inhabit brackish waters. For these fish found in saltwater, they will fall under the regulations for saltwater bowfishing.
Restrictions for Bowfishing in Saltwater
What fish are restricted with saltwater? This depends on your state, but sharks and redfish especially have a lot of restrictions around them when it comes to bowfishing because of how regular fishermen love to fish them, and they want to protect the species. Due to the killing, some people see bowfishermen as purely a bloodsport.
The restrictions can prove challenging in some areas because you first have to calculate the size of your fish under the water to make sure that it falls within the right length range: mistakes can be made. Like with freshwater bowfishing, if you can’t identify it, don’t shoot.
What Do You Need for Saltwater Bowfishing?
To go saltwater bowfishing, you will need to bring along a bow, reel and bowfishing arrows. With the reel, you may want to choose a reel made for saltwater because it won’t experience corrosion as fast. The Diwa Spinning Fishing Reels for Saltwater Freshwater has been built with resistant materials that can help your reel to resist breaking.
With that said, a lot of saltwater bowfishermen prefer hand-wound reels. This comes down to personal preference, rather than need. If you plan to bowfish in a tournament, you may want a faster reel than hand wound.
Along with soaking your items in freshwater after you have gone bowfishing on saltwater, you will also want to soak your braided line because it will keep it from weakening. Saltwater corrodes everything.
When to Go Bowfishing on Saltwater?
The most popular time to head to the water on freshwater is during the nighttime hours. Do the same rules with saltwater bowfishing exist? With bowfishing on saltwater, high tides in the early morning will usually mark the best time of day to head out for bowfishing.
On the ocean, you have to know where you are at all points. In the event of an emergency, you should also have an escape route. Nighttime saltwater bowfishing isn’t quite as popular because it can be a little more dangerous. You can’t identify things as easily. Still, many saltwater fish like to feed at night, and if you choose to do this, it can be advantageous. The fish also tend to be less careful.
With saltwater bowfishing, you will often chum the fish closer to get them into a feeding frenzy. Beware of the state laws because of how chumming can be illegal in some states.
Understanding the Saltwater Regulations
Call a local game warden and speak with them about the regulations. Do not let them give their opinion on it. They must pull it straight from the book to ensure that you follow the regulations. The issue with bowfishing comes from it being more niche. As a result, even the DNR doesn’t always know the laws around it. Having a book for it can prove helpful.
It differs from one state to the next with bowfishing regulations. In one state, you can’t legally shoot redfish, but you might have another where you can take one redfish per day. The legal species and the season dates will vary from one state to the next.
Catch and Release Stingrays?
As long as you haven’t shot the stingray in the vitals with your bow, they can survive, which means that you can practice catch and release. Personally, I think stingray makes a good meal. Having tasted it personally, I know for a fact that stingray tastes delicious. However, maybe you would prefer to let it go.
Keep in mind, stingray is the only fish that you can do this with, and check your state laws before you do it. In some cases, they have made it illegal to throw fish back into the water after shooting them because they will die. They may have thrown stingray under the same laws, and you don’t want an unnecessary penalty.
What saltwater fish can you shoot with a bow?
On saltwater, you can shoot a variety of species, but this varies from one state to the next. Among the popular species that you can shoot, sheepshead, flounder, sharks and stingrays are the most popular. Before you go out, check the regulations. If you’d like to see saltwater bowfishing in action, check out this awesome video of a few guys doing some shooting:
Saltwater Bowfishing States
I’ve written a couple of guides about bowfishing in the different states across the country with some of them having bowfishing in saltwater. In case you’re interested in more in-depth and state-specific information, check out the more detailed state guides that I wrote about here:
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in California
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Texas
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Louisiana
- Bowfishing Guide: How to Bowfish in Florida
Hopefully, you learned a little more about saltwater bowfishing since we intended this as the ultimate guide for the topic. You have plenty of great options for bowfishing, but I’d advise that you first contact the local game warden because they can shed some light on the regulations of the local area. Saltwater bowfishing regulations, unlike regular fishing regulations, can change from state to state and even region to region. In addition, the rules aren’t always clear.