Figuring out the biggest fish you can bowfish can help you to target a specific species so that you can go home with a tasty meal. Bowfishing can be tons of fun on the water, and it hands you the chance to hone your archery skills for deer hunting season.
What is the biggest fish I can bowfish? The biggest species of fish that you can bowfish are catfish. The biggest catfish ever caught was 646 pounds. That’s more than double the second biggest fish, the alligator gar, at 327 pounds. Check your state regulations before bowfishing catfish.
Bowfishing for Catfish
Before you begin bowfishing for catfish, you should check your local and state laws because it could be illegal in some states to bowfish for catfish. In addition, sometimes the DNR will implement a size limit to the catfish that you can catch. For example, you can only bowfish a catfish of beyond a certain limit.
While the biggest catfish ever caught was 646 pounds and this makes it the biggest species of fish on the list, most bowfishers comment on how they rarely get the chance for shooting cafish. In fact, some of the most common types of fish that you will be shooting at as a bowfisherman will be the common carp, grass carp, bighead carp and silver carp. These, however, aren’t the biggest fish on the list.
Understanding Channel Catfish Behavior
To go bowfishing for catfish, you may find it useful understanding a little about their behavior so that you can pinpoint their location for bowfishing. Channel catfish are one of the most common types of catfish that bowfishermen will go after because of how they live in rivers where the water is more shallow. In the rivers during the spring season, catfish will often make moves up river. In the larger rivers, they like to hang out closer to the wing dams and bridge abutments. As the waters begin to cool in the fall, you will find catfish closer to wintering holes.
Understanding Flathead Catfish Behavior
The second most common type of catfish that bowfishermen will shoot is known as the flathead catfish. Flatheads can grow up to 123 pounds, and their average length is between 25 to 46 inches. They’re the second biggest catfish after the blue catfish. Flatheads tend to feed at night, which makes them a big target for bowfishermen since they will often hunt for fish at night, and they’ll be a great target to bait during this time (make sure it’s legal in your state to bait). Searching for flathead catfish near downed trees, deep river holes and tangled wood is where they like to hang out.
Similar to channel catfish, flathead catfish have seasonal movements in rivers as well. They will typically be found upstream during the spring season, and you will find them further downstream in the wintering holes in the late fall. Flatheads tend to hide in cover, and you will find them in rocks and wood or under cover.
Understanding Blue Catfish Behavior
The largest catfish on the list, blue catfish can be found in rivers and reservoirs. However, you don’t see bowfishers shooting them as often. Blue catfish like to hang out in the current of the river or near the channel edges or deep flats. Like with the other catfish, their movements tend to be based on seasonal things. In colder water, they will be in deeper water, which makes them harder for bowfisherman to get at. In cold water, they move down river, while in the spring reason, they move to the creek arms and feeder rivers, which makes them an easier target.
Catfish Recipe: How to Eat Them
Perhaps this catfish recipe will be of interest to you. As bowfishermen, please don’t leave your prized catches to rot by the side of the lake or river. It gives us all a bad name. Catfish taste great, and a lot of people love to eat them. It’s one of the most common fish that people go after for the taste in the United States.
Zesty Baked Catfish
- 1 teaspoon of Canola oil
- 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 to 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon
- 2 fillets of catfish
- It takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook and makes 2 servings
You have a reasonably simple recipe here. First, you will brush over the sides of the fillet, and after you have done this, you combine the lemon juice and the oil together. Next, you just toss in the ingredients that remain and brush this over the side of the fillets for extra flavor. Finally, you will need a 15x10x1-in. baking pan, and you will place the fillets in the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to cook the catfish in the pan. The fish should be easy to pull up when you take a fork to it.
The Alligator Gar and Gar
More commonly, you can bowfish gar and alligator gar, and these are the second biggest fish on the list that you can shoot for. The alligator gar is the first biggest fish with the biggest caught being 327 pounds. Meanwhile, the biggest gar ever caught was 279 pounds. You have plenty of reasons to go after the alligator gar.
Understanding the Behavior of the Alligator Gar
It’s a good bowfishing setup to understand the fish you will be hunting. Alligator gar appear somewhat sluggish and passive in their feeding habits, but they love to ambush their prey. In fact, they will sometimes prey on the waterfowl by ambushing them at the surface by being a few feet below. This makes them a prime target for bowfishing as well since they lurk near the surface. Alligator gar can live up to 95 years, and the biggest one ever caught on record was 327 pounds.
Because of the gar’s specialized air bladder, it can live in water in some of the poorest conditions. Sometimes people have mistaken gars for a floating log. If you see a log, look at it more closely to make sure. The alligator gar love to hide in shallow and weedy environments. You may also find them in the backwaters of a river, and because they float near surface, they’re an easy target for bowfishermen. The female of a single gar can produce as many as 77,000 eggs at one time.
The Ultimate List of Bowfishing Fish: Biggest to Smallest Fish
In the list below, I have outlined the fish species from the biggest to the smallest. These are all fish that you can bowfish for, and in many cases, they’re referred to as the “rough fish” because of how they’re less preferred fish in comparison to the other fish. Before you decide to chase after a specific species for bowfishing, you should always check your local and state regulations to make sure that the fish you have chosen will be a legal target in your area:
- Catfish – the biggest catch at 646 pounds.
- Alligator Gar – the biggest catch at 327 pounds.
- Gar – the biggest catch at 279 pounds.
- Paddlefish – the biggest catch at 198 pounds.
- Common Carp – the biggest catch at 108 pounds.
- Silver Carp – the biggest catch at 100 pounds.
- Grass Carp – the biggest catch at 93.3 pounds.
- Bighead Carp – the biggest catch at 61.7 pounds.
- Freshwater Drum – the biggest catch at 60 pounds.
- Buffalo – the biggest catch at 54 pounds.
- Suckerfish – the biggest catch at 37 pounds.
- Bowfin – the biggest catch at 21 pounds.
- End of the list.
While catfish are the biggest fish that bowfishermen can target, the most common kind of fish that you will see them go after are the different varieties of carp. After the carp, they go after the gar and the alligator gar. One of the reasons for this is because of how accessible carp can be. Catfish can be a little harder to catch while bowfishing(you see less of them), but they’re not impossible to come upon either.