Bowfishing 101: A Beginner’s Guide


Looking to add a different kind of excitement to your next fishing trip? Consider bowfishing. In some ways more difficult than the regular rod and line, bowfishing combines the thrills of hunting, archery, and fishing into one fantastic sport. Whether you’re heading out on a guided fishing trip in Thailand or checking out the river in your hometown, you’ll find a bevy of opportunity in this thrilling sport. From equipment to strategy advice, if you’re a beginner to bowfishing, this guide will come in handy.

The Right Equipment

Your trophies depend on your gear. Finding the right equipment for your bowfishing adventure is essential. Generally, recurve bows are well-equipped to handle the instinctive, split-second shooting required for bowfishing. Lightweight and inexpensive, these can get the job done. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a single season of bowfishing can cause a great deal of damage on the classic, cheaper options, so you may consider investing more in a sturdier compound bow that features bowfishing-specific compounds. Thanks to mud, blood, and water, your bow can face some tough conditions. As you begin hunting, it may be advisable to use an older, secondhand bow. Check out a site like OfferUp to find local fisherman and hunters looking to get rid of their bow. Depending on your target, you may need specialty gear. This is true of rays and other unique marine life; however, if your goal is carp or gar, you’ll be fine with a basic bowfishing set.


Keep Your Fingers in Mind

Because bowfishing requires quick release, many bowfishermen choose to use their fingers instead of a release aid. However, this type of sustained shooting can wear on your fingers and cause blisters sores, and bruising. Keep your fingers safe with shooting gloves or consider using a finger tab.

Always Aim Low

Thanks to refraction in the water, the beginner may often miss high when shooting at fish in the water. This means heading into the water with the “aim low” mantra. The deeper the fish, and the further away, the lower you must aim. Getting a handle on this means consistent practice and following your instincts. Don’t be discouraged if the first few shots see you significantly missing—it’s a science, and you’ll get the hang of it as you go.

Hunt After Dark

Some fisherman choose head lamps, while others swear by bow-mounted lights. Not keen to head out on a boat after dark on your own? Consider hiring a guide. They can easily guide you through dark, murky waters and increase your chances of success. Whether you’re looking for hunting or fishing trips, there are a variety of guides and outfitters that can help you secure the trophy you’re pursuing. Generally bowfishing boats feature raised shooting platforms along with halogen lights to help cut through the water and get your quarry in sight. 

Keep Your Voice Down

While it’s important in any fishing or hunting endeavor to maintain quiet, this is ever true of bowfishing. Water transmits sound, and fish will quickly dart out of sight should they be spooked by the raucous yelling of fisherman or loud stomping in the reeds. It’s important to use your “inside voice” (to return to schoolyard rules). In all seriousness, make every effort to keep your voice down and excess noises to a minimum; the stealth factor plays a huge role in bowfishing success. 

Bowfishing can be a trying endeavor to start, but it’s a rewarding passion that will provide plenty of excitement. Keep these tips and strategies in mind as you begin your bowfishing adventure and come home with a trophy you can be proud of.