Most bowfishermen even prefer to hitch up their bowfishing boat and head to the water for a fun time shooting some arrows at the fish. You can illuminate the fish better with bowfishing lights so that you can see them even better than what you would during the day where you might need a good pair of polarized bowfishing glasses.
Requires More Setup at Night
If you do decide to go bowfishing at night, you should understand how it will usually require a little more setup to get started. For example, you will need bowfishing lights, a boat, a generator to power the lights and you will need the bow and arrow as well to be successful with it.
Higher Chances of Success: Fish More Active at Night
You have a higher chance of success with bowfishing at night because of how the fish that you tend to target are nocturnal. Carp, for example, is one of your main targets, and while they spook easily during the daylight hours, you can shoot a lot of them more easily at night.
In addition, carp tend to come in closer to the banks and lurk in shallower waters at night, which makes them a prime target for bowfishing, since you won’t usually shoot in water deeper than 3 to 5 feet deep.
Catfish also tend to be more nocturnal, and some of the other fish species that are more active at night that are bowfishing species include:
- Alligator gar
All of these fish tend to be more active at night, and all of them are targeted for bowfishing.
How to Do Bowfishing at Night
Getting ready for a good night out on the water matters because of how good preparation beforehand can help you to shoot more fish. You will first want to get a clear identification of your target. You don’t want to take the shot only to learn that the DNR could fine you because of how you shot a fish that you weren’t supposed to.
It can be easy to get overly excited, but it’s important to keep calm. Especially in muddy water, you can take a beaver or a duck by accident. It’s a mistake that you don’t want to make. Take the time to first get a clear identification of the fish.
The advantage of taking shots at night with bowfishing lights is that you can get a far clearer identification of it than what you even could during the day. Bright halogen lights with higher lumens will probably offer you the quickest route to identification, while LED lights can take a little longer.
Where Will You Go Bowfishing at Night?
Understanding where you will go bowfishing during the night hours matters because of how you can’t see as well at night. For that reason, scouting the area a little when the sunlight is out can make navigating it at night much easier.
You want to get a feel and understanding for the depth of the water so that when you go, you can do it more easily. You will know where the water suddenly gets shallow and where it drops off. Deep water is not good for bowfishing.
The best areas for bowfishing during the night will be in places where you have a lot of vegetation and weeds. That makes it less likely that you will spook the fish when you approach.
The other thing is that you want to know the depth of the water because shallow water has a higher chance of success than deeper water. Deeper water puts a great barrier between your arrow and the fish, and this makes it harder to shoot the fish and penetrate it.
Know the Fish You Plan to Shoot
Some of the fish that I’ve had the best luck with at night include the grass carp, the buffalo, the common carp and the gar. You see the occasional catfish, but I wouldn’t make that the entire focus of your bowfishing trip.
To have the most success, you want to understand the fish you hunt because of you can find them this way through going after what they feed on. For example, if you want to go after grass carp, you might look for some of the green leafy plants that they like to feed off of.
Some of the plants that grass carp feed on include:
Go to where they like to feed, and you will usually find the fish not too far from the food source. They aren’t evenly distributed across a lake or river. To give another example, buffalo fish will feed on insects, clams, plants, plankton, insect larvae and small crustaceans.
How to Find the Perfect Lighting
The lighting that you choose can make or break your experience of bowfishing at night. I find that HPS lights are good for almost everything. If you don’t know what you’re picking, I’d go with HPS lighting. Also, if you’d like to learn more about picking lights for bowfishing, I’d recommend an article I wrote a while back called, What Kind of Lights for Bowfishing?
With some fish like the bighead carp, they will be sensitive to the lighting. For that reason, you want to pick lighting that you can turn off at a moment’s notice to not spook them. For bowfishing at night, the lights will be the most crucial item, and you can’t bowfish without them.
When choosing the light, you want high brightness because of how this will illuminate the fish, and open up more opportunities to you.
The other thing that you have to consider when you go to buy bowfishing lights is that you want to have lights that use waterproof housing.
Remember: You’re in a boat on the lake, and the water can ruin your lights if not waterproof.
It might sound obvious to buy a light brand for bowfishing that is waterproof, but you have many options out there that fail to make their lights waterproof. That leads to big problems. In fact, if you want a waterproof lightbar, you might choose the 12 Inch LED Light Bar Spot Flood Combo Beam.
How to Use Light Colors to Your Advantage
Using light colors to your advantage comes down to understanding the types of water that you will chiefly bowfish. For water where you have clear to semi-clear, you might find an advantage with LEDs. Cool white lights will especially work well here.
Let’s say, however, that you have water with poor visibility. For water like that, you will want to use warm white lights. For downright muddy water, which is common like in some parts of Texas, you will want to use HPS or yellow lights, which will penetrate the water more easily.
Beware of the Generator Noise
With bowfishing at night, perhaps one of the most expensive things that you will pay for is the generator. With that said, you want to buy a quieter generator because it has less likelihood of scaring off the fish.
Smaller generators will usually put out less noise, but you have a tradeoff because of how they also don’t have as much power. You also should look at price because the more expensive generators will usually produce less noise. What you should buy will depend on your values. If you’d like a good generator, the Champion Power Equipment 100402 2000-Watt Dual works well.
The one advantage of a generator is that you don’t have to worry as much about your own noise. However, you still should only make slow and controlled movements so as not to scare away the fish.
Should You Do Battery Power?
You could do battery power if you want to get away with the noise. That said other bowfishermen and myself dislike battery power because of how it doesn’t penetrate the waters as well as gas-powered generators. I’d rather deal with the noise and scare away some of the fish than do battery power because I find it more effective. The key is that you find a quiet generator.
GPS Helps at Night Big Time!
You would be surprised how much GPS can help you to find your favorite spot at night. In fact, it works even better at night because of how you can’t see as clearly.
A number of different GPS fishng apps exist, such as:
- Fish Rules
- Fish Brain
Because you can access GPS apps right from the phone, I wouldn’t even say to buy a GPS fishfinder because it works just as well from the smartphones, and it cuts down on the cost. You can mark your favorite hotspots and go straight to them this way.
Where to Put Your Bowfishing Lights
Bowfishing at night comes with its own set of advantages. That said, one of the disadvantages comes from how the bugs will eat you alive. I’ve known bowfishermen who ended a night on the water early because of the bugs when it was too intolerable to keep bowfishing. To mitigate this problem, bring some bug spray because you will need it for the night.
Also, don’t mount your bowfishing lights above the platform. I will say that again–don’t mount them above the bowfishing platform. Mount the lights below the bowfishing platform. In this way, the bugs will be attracted to the light, but they won’t bother you quite as much.
If you mount the lights higher, you can expect a night of swatting at mosquitoes and gnats because they feel especially attracted to the light. Like humans, bugs use the lighting at night like the moon to navigate, which explains why they feel attracted to artificial lighting.
It feels much better to have the bugs attacking your feet as opposed to your knees or arms as you go to take the shot. Another way to also get beyond this problem is through wearing a sweatshirt or something that will cover your skin from bug bites. Not to mention, it has the additional benefit of keeping your warm.
Why I Like to Shoot from Platforms
I especially like to shoot from a platform at night because of how I can spot the fish more easily. The higher up you go, the easier it will be to spot the carp swimming around. You may not be able to pull this off right away if you don’t have the right budget for it, but you might go with a buddy who has a raised platform to experience it. You will notice a big difference.
A raised platform will raise your center of gravity for improved aim. As I said before, I also like this technique because of how I can mount the lights lower so that I don’t get eaten by mosquitoes all night.
The Other Advantage of Bowfishing at Night
Bowfishing during the night hours has one special advantage to it that outweighs all the others. If you go during the day, it will be oppressively hot in the summer months, even in places like Minnesota, much less somewhere like Texas or New Mexico where the temperatures can hit triple digits easily.
On the one hand, if you go at night, temperatures will usually drop 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, making it more comfortable. That can make a big difference, and it makes it a lot more pleasant to be out on the water. The other plus side is that you’re not doing much else during the night hours.
When you go to take shots at the fish in the water, you will apply something known as 10:4. This is how you account for light refraction, which makes the fish appear lower than what you’d first believe. The 10:4 rule means that for every 10 feet and 1 foot of depth, you will shoot 4 inches below the fish.
Let’s say that you have 20 feet and 2 feet of depth. Now you will shoot 8 inches below the fish. When you go to take the shot, you will want to aim for its vital organs. That means that you will aim for the top half of the fish. For example, hitting it through the gills is a sure shot.
Advantages and Disadvantages
You have a few advantages and disadvantages that come with bowfishing at night. For example, you can often see the fish better during this time than what you would during the day. The other thing is that it’s peaceful, and you’re usually one of the only people out on the lake or river. You have it to yourself.
I like to do bowfishing during this time of how it feels more intimate-just me and the fish. Usually because of fewer people on the lake, you can get to your favorite bowfishing spots more easily.
- Fewer people
- Get your favorite spots
- Easier to see the fish
- Better for muddy water to do it at night
- A lot of the target fish are nocturnal
- Requires lights, a boat and a generator
- Usually stay up later
- Can get colder at night
Myself and many other bowfishermen prefer to do it at night because of how the experience is simply more enjoyable. I would recommend that you do this at least once because it does differ from doing it during daylight hours. A lot of the fish that you target with bowfishing tend to be nocturnal, which means that they will be more active during the nighttime hours.
2 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Bowfishing at Night”
You should really mention something about respecting the residents along the shoreline. Some of the bow fishermen on my lake simply don’t care that their VERY BRIGHT lights blast into our windows late at night. There must be a way to shade the lights (at least partially) so that the lights only point down.
Since this is such a problem, our community is looking into various options to restrict bow fishing on our lake.