Bowfishing is an activity between fishing and hunting. It is a method of catching fish with specialized archery equipment. This type of fishing does not allow catching and releasing. It is the type of fishing where you hit the fish with a special arrow that is attached to your bow with a line. As mentioned above, bowfishing is much more of a hunting than a fishing activity. Using your bow for fishing can be exciting and something different. Did you know that you can use different bow models for bowfishing? But can you bowfish with a crossbow?
The simple answer is yes, you can bowfish using a crossbow. More and more fishers are finding crossbows great for their work and crossbow fishing is getting really popular these days.
One may say that this type of fishing is a bit more advanced but not as difficult. Even the beginners can get a grasp of it quickly and master it in a few months. But bear in mind that it requires plenty of patience, practice on aiming and a bit of luck, especially if you are a beginner.
As you continue reading this post, you will have a better understanding of how to bowfish with a crossbow. I hope that I will be able to answer all of your questions.
What Kind of Crossbow for Bowfishing Should I Choose?
When bowfishing, you are usually going after big fish. Most common freshwater fish suitable for bowfishing are alligator gar and grass carp, while in saltwater, rays and sharks are the most desired targets of bowfishers.
For crossbow fishing, you don’t need any complicated or high-tech equipment. Using any type of crossbow is fine. Just make sure that your crossbow is made of high-quality materials and strong enough for the fish you are going after.
This could be pricier but it is worth it. Below you can find some features that you need to look into when choosing the right crossbow for bowfishing.
One of the essential factors most hunters and fishers would focus on when choosing a crossbow is the price. For those who are not aware, you can buy a crossbow, arrows (called bolts) and everything else you need for bowfishing separately. However, you also have an option to buy the complete crossbow bowfishing kit that includes crossbow, bolts and other accessories like the scope, cocking device, pointers, arrow tips, and others.
Buying the cheapest crossbow is not a good idea since most of them are made of low-quality material and may break easily. They also lack some features that are vital for bowfishing (for example, the cheapest crossbow bowfishing kits may include low-quality reeling devices that may break easily, the luring line is usually short and holds not more than 100 lb, etc.).
An expensive crossbow is usually quieter, compared to the cheaper ones. Likewise, it offers higher arrow speed.
It is best to choose a light crossbow to avoid any difficulty moving around. Using a lightweight crossbow for bowfishing is an advantage, especially if you are planning to spend the whole day or night in the water. Also, using a lighter crossbow makes your fishing better, as it is much easier to hold while you are in the water and waiting for your target.
On the other hand, heavier crossbows have some advantages. They are a much better option if you are going after bigger fish. In this case, you will need a stronger bow. Lighter bows will only injure the fish and you will have a slimmer chance of killing and catching it.
3. Buying an Old or New Crossbow?
When buying a crossbow, it doesn’t have to always be brand new. Buying a good used crossbow is also an option worth considering. That way you can get a decent piece of equipment for much less money. Brand new quality crossbows usually cost plenty of money and getting a one- or two-year-old model can save you quite a few bucks.
But if you decide to buy a used crossbow, you have to know what you are buying. Check out our article on buying used bows. That way you won’t make any buying mistakes and will get as much for your money as possible.
4. Other Vital Features
Other vital features you should be looking for include high quality or red dot scope and cocking device to help cock the device easily. It is also best if your fishing crossbow is equipped with cranks and clamps. Cocking aid is beneficial for anglers that have a problem pulling back the strings.
If you are planning to fish mostly at night, then equipping your crossbow with a quality night vision light system is recommended. Also, consider equipping your bolts with lighted nocks. That way you will always know where you hit.
What You Need to Know About Crossbow Bowfishing Arrows (Bolts)
Your crossbow bowfishing kit is not complete without the arrows (called bolts). But before you actually make a purchase, make sure you read this paragraph to learn some of the important information you need.
The first thing you have to take into consideration when picking out the correct bolt is its length. Most crossbow bolts measure 18–22 inches in length. But the length depends on the crossbow so always make sure to check the manufacturer’s manual and pick the right length.
Also, remember that not all crossbow bolts are manufactured the same way so bolt’s length is not the only thing you are looking for.
1. Bolt Material
There are two main materials that crossbow bolts are made of aluminum and carbon fiber. In addition, some companies offer bolts that are a combination of these two materials.
You have to know that aluminum is the cheapest option available. Therefore, if you are a beginner and are looking for cheaper options, go with aluminum crossbow bolts. Aluminum bolts and arrows are also durable upon impact. Their only disadvantage is that they can bend easily. Once the bolt or arrow is bent, it is useless as it will not fly straight and you can throw it away.
Knowing this, it is quite understandable that bolts made of carbon fiber are the best option. They sure are a bit more expensive but their flight path is amazing, they penetrate deep in the water and they can withstand many impacts. They will not break easily and do not bend as fast as aluminum bolts.
When searching for crossbow bolts on the Internet, you will surely come across wooden crossbow bolts. If you own a medieval crossbow, then using this type of bolts is probably OK (however, make sure you check your manufacturer’s manuals). But make sure you never use them with modern crossbows. Such crossbows have a much higher draw weight and could break and destroy wooden bolts while firing, leaving a great chance of harming you.
2. Bolt Weight
A second most important feature when choosing bolts is the weight. If the bolt is too light, it will not penetrate deep enough in the water and you will be limited to hunt only fish that are close to the surface. On the other hand, if the bolt is too heavy, it will significantly reduce your bowfishing shooting range.
Since you are fishing and not hunting, picking heavier bolts won’t be such a problem. You will be standing much closer to the fish than when, let’s say, hunting a deer. Therefore, a heavier bolt will not significantly reduce your fishing range. On the other hand, it will make sure that when you hit the fish, you will not just harm it and let it swim away.
Is Crossbow Bowfishing Actually Legal?
Now that you know the answer to the question “can you blowfish with a crossbow”, let’s take a look at level part of bowfishing. Bowfishers are often referred to as outlaws in the fishing world. But in reality, they are not. This is the question most people want also to know: “Is crossbow bowfishing legal?”
Yes, crossbow bowfishing is legal, but there are some local laws that you need to know before you do it as well as the type of fish that you can legally target. Green sunfish, suckers, bluegill, carp, drum, buffalo, gar, and other fish not categorized as game fish can be caught legally. Most of these fish belong to the category of trash or rough fish and are legal targets in freshwater.
The rough fish are those that do not belong in the group of sport fish. These include types of fish that are not eaten and are usually invasive species. Since fishermen do not target them, bowfishing is the best way to control the fish population and remove the undesirable fish.
The list of legal targets for saltwater depends on your location and includes everything from flounder, rays, sheepshead, flounder, and redfish. Since redfish are considered sport fish, they are not legal to target in some states.
Before you do bowfishing, you should know what fish are legal to shoot in your area.
Sportfishing license is required in bowfishing. Each state has its game laws, and you need to make sure that bowfishing is legal in the state in question. Check for the licenses and permits required.
Take note that non-game fish are taken at night as you are allowed to use light in reservoirs with more than 500 acres in size. You are not allowed to fish for game fish, except for hickory shad, blue catfish, flathead catfish, channel catfish, and American shad.
In Florida, bowfishing is not allowed, and the regulations for hunting non-game fish differ by region.
If you are just starting with the sport, it is recommended that you join bowfishing associations like the Bowfishing Association of America. They can help you with your questions about bowfishing and the association represents an excellent place to connect with other anglers.
Making Your Crossbow Bowfishing Safe
Just like in hunting, safety is also essential when it comes to bowfishing. Crossbow bowfishing safety can be learned through various training courses. If the local laws allow you to fish with a crossbow, I strongly recommend that you learn and follow all the safety measures that come along.
The main objective of these training courses is to help beginners understand the various parts of crossbow and arrows, proper bow holding and handling, cocking, aiming, maintaining, storing, cleaning and of course, firing. You will also learn how to use your crossbow in a way that minimizes your harm to nature. Courses also teach you security signals and, of course, first aid so you know how to help if anything happens.
The secret for efficient bowfishing is to practice aiming and be patient. Don’t forget there are legal issues that you need to be aware of before heading to the fishing area.
This type of fishing requires regular practices. Practice aiming, movement, and handling with your crossbow. That way you will increase your odds to hit your target and drag it from the water. You also need to know how low to aim when firing the bolt. Moreover, do not forget to pick the right crossbow and bolts as well as other equipment.
Just keep in mind everything you have read in this article and you will not have any problems with your future bowfishing. The answer to the question “can you bowfish with a crossbow” is a definite yes.
If you have questions or inquiries or you want to share your experience in crossbow bowfishing, feel free to comment below. We will be happy to give you a hand with anything you might need.