A fan of archery? Want to try something new this summer? Or do you simply want to explore a new way of catching fish? Bow fishing charters cater to all types of people - and they can be even more fun than you think.
What is bow fishing?
It’s exactly what you think it is: fishing with a bow and arrow. Reserved to the shallows, it can take place in salt or freshwater. The main requirements are that you can see the fish you’re targeting and that able to get up close to it before you shoot.
Usually, you will only legally able to blowfish for non-game fish and fish that aren’t endangered. Catch and release isn’t an option - so it’s always a good idea to learn the ropes with a professional bow fishing guide. You don’t want to find yourself releasing your arrow at the wrong fish!
Top freshwater targets include Carp, Gar, Catfish, and Paddlefish, while saltwater charters can take you after Rays, Sheepshead, Flounder, Drum, and even Mullet. Redfish is a common target in Louisiana, although bow fishing for this species is forbidden in most other states.
Bow fishing equipment
Bow fishing gear can be relatively easy to get hold of. It consists of:
- A bow (obviously). Bow fishing bows are generally lighter than hunting bows, but beginners can try out the sport by adapting hunting bows with a special kit.
- Arrows. Unlike bows, bow fishing arrows are usually a lot heavier than those used elsewhere.
- A bow fishing reel. This connects the arrow to the bow, meaning it won’t get lost with the current. They can come in hand-wrap, retriever, and spin cast versions.
- Line. Bow fishing line tends to be much heavier than traditional rod and reel fishing line (it’ll commonly be between 80-400lb test).
- A boat (optional). Most bow fishing is done from some kind of flat bottomed boat or kayak, with airboats being a popular alternative. While it is possible to bow fish from land, this will give you much less flexibility (and you absolutely will get wet!)
- Lights (optional). Bow fishing is traditionally done at night, in which case bright LED lights are essential if you want to locate your target.
When people learn how to blowfish, they usually find it takes a while to get used to aiming. The water refracts light, creating the illusion that the fish is in a different place from where it actually is. That said, it really doesn’t matter if you miss, because your arrow is attached to your bow with the fishing line - so you can practice as many times as you like.
Top bow fishing hotspots
Louisiana - Everywhere along the Gulf Coast. The Louisiana marshes are the perfect territory for bow fishing. Look for Redfish, Drum, Gar, Flounder, and many more.
St. Lawrence River - Famous for having lots of big Carp
Missouri River - Everywhere from St Louis to Kansas City is a bow fishing paradise. Look for Paddlefish, Gar, and Carp.
Florida - Especially the Gulf Coast. Stingrays, Flounder, Mullet, and Sheepshead are common targets.
Trinity River - Largely believed to be the best bow fishing destination in the country, bow fishermen head to this part of Texas to target Alligator Gar, Bowfin, Carp, and more.
What not to forget on a bow fishing charter:
- Polarized sunglasses if you’re fishing during the day (essential for spotting the fish on a sunny day).
- Fishing license - check your state's regulations before fishing.