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Bowfishing involves the use of a bow, an arrow and some fishing line attached to both the bow and the arrow. For many archery fans, bowfishing augments an all to short hunting season, allowing them to practice their skills all year long.

There are many advantages to fishing with a bow and arrow. Except for a small splash as the arrow goes into the water, bowfishing is virtually silent. The same bow can be used to hunt game as well as fish. The arrows are reusable without costly reloading equipment. Practice target shooting costs next to nothing (unless you lose your arrows). Bowfishing can be done on the shore or in a boat, canoe, or while wading. While hunting game fish with a bow and arrow is either illegal or with a very short season. Bowfishing "rough" fish is mostly legal in all states.
"Rough" fish are usually considered to be carp, gar, or other types of fish unique to your home state. While none of these fish are high on my menu list, all can be eaten in an emergency. But, since survival is the name of the game, if you should accidentally shoot a bass or other protected fish, that's unfortunate. Eat it fast and bury the bones.

The following article excerpts are from and gives a very good introduction to bowfishing. The article assumes you already own a bow, but also recommends you purchase an "old" compound bow specially for bowfishing. My ideal would be a compound bow with removable fishing gear, to use the bow to its full survival potential. The old "recurve bows" will also work well since you don't need nearly the full power of the big game bows. Using eBay, or similar web sites can get you a very good deal at a very good price.

Left: A compound bow by Buckmasters. This particular model sells (new) for around $300.00. It is only shown here to familiarize the newcomer to archery equipment and is not meant to be an indorsement.

Right: Recurve Bows by Fred Bear. Shown only for familiarization purposes. While the recurve bow looks lighter and easier to pull, the reality is most compound bows give you a far more powerful bow, with a pull weight equal to or less than the recurve bows.

Like every sport, each type has its own fan club. Just like weapons, what is good for me may not be what you like at all. Try them out before committing yourself to purchase anything.

For average rough fish you won't need a lot of draw weight. Thirty to forty pounds is more than enough. Larger game such as alligator gar and certain saltwater species like rays and shark require heavier poundage and at times, specialized equipment. Let's just assume you'll be hunting carp-sized fish. (That's a fish in the 1-5 pound range.)

Once you have selected your bow, the next thing to consider is your arrow rest. Since fishing arrows are generally quite heavy - in excess of 1,100 grains - they may require a more solid rest than what you currently use. A specialized arrow rest usually cost around ten dollars, and considering most standard arrow rests for compound bows cost a few times that amount, it's not a bad idea to get one and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your "expensive" equipment. Note sample arrow rest at end of article.

For many years, standard bowfishing arrow shafts have been made from solid fiberglass. While a number of manufacturers currently offer heavy carbon composite bowfishing arrows for nearly thirty dollars each (this includes the point), I still prefer the solid fiberglass arrows. These are available for around nine dollars each and will take a lot of abuse. Remember, if you take care of them, you can reuse them over and over again.

You will also need a reel to hold and dispense your line. These can be anything from large hoops or solid reel you manually wrap line around to standard spinning reels or specialized products. Hoops and solid reels are the slowest to use since they require you to retrieve and wrap your line by hand, but for less than twenty dollars they are your least expensive choice. Large spinning reels and mounts will set you back around sixty dollars.

Left: A spincast reel; AMS Retriever (top of the line); A shoot-through hoop.

Next on your list of equipment considerations are arrow points, which are designed to penetrate and hold your quarry. There are several quality models available these days, but I personally prefer ones with retractable barbs. Once a fish is landed, a few turns of the tip will release the barbs and allow for easy arrow removal, getting you back in the hunt quickly.
Left: "Innerlock" 3-barb grapple point. $11.39 each. Arrow not included.

Since glare on the water's surface can severely limit visibility, you will need a pair of polarized sunglasses. Standard sunglasses won't eliminate light reflecting on the water. They must be polarized glasses. You should be able to find an inexpensive pair wherever fishing gear is sold. However, if your eyes are like RogueTurtle's eyes, you will need corrective lenses with polarized glass. These are NOT cheap. Mine weren't. But, I use them for everything, including driving and hunting. They are great for checking out the "babes" at the beach too.


Staying Safe

Shooting an arrow that's tied to your bow is a somewhat risky business. If all goes well, your line discharges freely without incident. However, should your line snag during the shot, it could cause the arrow to reverse directions, coming back at you. This is known as "snap back" and is most often a result of line becoming entangled on something rearward of your bow grip - bowstring or cables, arrow rest, wristwatch, etc. The simplest way to avoid this is by keeping the line in front of your bow at all times. If you tie to the back of your arrow, the line forms a loop when the arrow is shot, It's this loop that can snap and cause the arrow to come back toward you. Since tying to the front of the arrow can cause severe flight problems, you have to look for other options. The two most common solutions are cabling rigs and the AMS Safety Slide. Both serve the same purpose - to keep the line in front of the bow prior to the shot, but allowing it to slide to the back of the arrow upon release.

Top: AMS Safety Slide
Bottom: Cabling Rig

A cabling rig is basically a fishing leader - most often made of steel - with attachments at the opposite ends of the arrow. Sliding up and down this cable are two plastic beads with a barrel swivel between them. The retractable fishing line is tied to the swivel, allowing it to freely travel from the front to the back of the arrow.

The AMS Safety Slide (top) is made up of two small plastic pieces: a sleeve that slides up and down your arrow, and a stop block that's attached to the rear of the shaft by a small screw. The retractable fishing line is attached to the sleeve, which serves the same function as the barrel swivel of a cabling rig. Adding a dab of 2-ton epoxy to the set screw and stop block will prevent this (potentially) weak spot from coming loose after a couple hundred shots.

Bowfishing often involves close-range moving targets that may only appear for a second or two. For this reason, most bowfishermen decide to use their fingers rather than use mechanical releases and bow sights. Whatever system you pick to use, hitting a fish below the water's surface still presents a unique problem that you have to overcome: REFRACTION

Without getting into a lengthy physics lesson, suffice to say that light slows down as it enters water. This causes the light to bend, or "refract." The easiest way to demonstrate light refraction is by submerging one end of a drinking straw into a glass of water. As you look into the top of the glass, the straw will appear to bend upward toward the waters surface. Just like the bottom of the straw, the fish will appear closer to the surface than they really are.
Left: A good days hunting for carp.

The "TEN - FOUR Rule":

If a fish is ten feet away and one foot under the surface, aim four inches low. As you double either the ten or the one, double the four accordingly. For example: twenty feet out and one foot down means to shoot eight inches low (as would ten feet out and two feet down). This may seem complicated at first, but you'll be surprised how quickly it becomes second nature.

The above article didn't include this photo, but this is one of many styles of arrow rest used when bowfishing. This particular model attaches to the side opposite the arrow rest, and can be folded up for bowfishing, or moved down for regular hunting arrows.
Called a "Fish Hook Bowfishing Rest," it sells for $15.95.

Right: A bowfisherman with an alligator gar.
These fish can grow to reach more than 244 pounds (the record for Sam Houston Reservoir). These fish are not good eating.
They also violate RogueTurtle's First Rule of Fishing in Boats:


Left: The "business end" of an Alligator Gar. Note the teeth that can take over a boat, making the Gar the captain.

Left: Unknown bowfisherman with an alternative food source: Snapping Turtles. As much as it hurts me to admit it, my ill-tempered cousins make good soup.

Whether you're shooting from the bank of a lake or river, or sitting in a small boat, bowfishing can bring home food for the table.

Before I forget...

I would recommend wherever you go, take along at least a couple of standard hunting arrows, and a couple "flu flu" arrows for birds in flight. The heavily feathered end lets the arrow run straight and true for about 20 yards, and then run out of gas and fall gently back to the ground for easy recovery.

Right: two examples of "flu flu" arrows. These are easy to make out of arrows with damaged feathers. Use a spent .38 caliber shell casing (to blunt the end for the arrow) for the arrow head. The weight of the arrow is sufficient to down most birds. Remember, where there's fresh water, there are ducks. Fish and duck = "Quacken-fish".

CAUTION: Upon release, the extra-wide flu flu feathers may wrap around the arrow rest, coming into contact with the hand holding the bow. Even the soft flu flu feather - traveling at tremendous speed as it leaves the bow - can cut up your forearm and hand. Protect your arm and particularly your hand with a protective leather glove.

I digress. How did I get into ducks, anyway?

Bowfishing Line
Most bowfishermen I know use heavy-duty braided line, with a breaking strength of (from) 80 pounds up to a whopping 600 pounds. It depends on what type fish you are fishing for. Your local dealer can clue you in on what other fishermen in the area are using. However, for the survivalist who may end up anywhere bowfishing for anything that swims, I would recommend the 200# line as a good all-around multi-purpose line that won't break unless you get one of those monster gar shown earlier.

Braided line tends NOT to tangle as much as heavy monofilament line. It is "softer" on your hands than monofilament when you have to pull in a heavy line by hand.

Unless you are a commercial fisherman or a bricklayer with heavily calloused hands, you will need to protect your hands from getting cut from the heavy fishing line as you reel in by hand. You might get away with reeling in one or two small fish without cutting your hands, but when your hands get wet all bets are off. Even a small fish seems to triple in weight as you reel in the line, arrow and fish all at once. This makes the skin on your (wet) hand feel like you are holding onto razor blades. The result can be very painful. Wear good quality leather gloves. Don't use the type that just covers the palm since there will be times when the line wraps completely around your hand. The top of your hand cuts even easier than your calloused palms. It may seem awkward at first, but protecting your hands from getting cut is a major concern in a survival situation where medical help could be a long way off.

Bowfishing, combined with bow hunting, can add a great deal of food to the survival larder. While the use of the bow and arrow takes a lot of practice to get to the accuracy level needed, the same can be said for the use of firearms. RT has a Bear (brand name) White Tail Hunter he includes in his survival gear. I don't have it in my "bug out" bag, but it is included in the "car kit".

I don't practice as much with my bow as I should. There are not a lot of places to practice archery around my area, so I have to use farm land, with the owner's permission, of course. Remember, don't use those expensive hunting and/or fishing arrowheads for practice. Buy some cheaper practice arrows and have at it. The initial cash outlay for 6 arrows will be the same approximate cost as a few boxes of .45 caliber bullets. However, once the .45 shells are gone, you are out of ammo. You can just walk up and re-use your arrows.

Like any skill, you have to practice to become proficient. If you have never used a bow and arrow before, I strongly urge you to find an accomplished hunter and ask him or her to help you get started. Most archers I know will be flattered and pleased to help any novice get started in their sport.

The difference between "sport" archery and hunting is the death of an animal for dinner. Survival archery may save your life. It's important to remember that the bow and arrow is a deadly weapon. Nations such as Great Britain used the bow as their primary defensive weapon for their armies for hundreds of years. It can kill humans as well as lower animals, so pay attention to what you aim at. The native Americans used the bow and arrow successfully to feed their families for hundreds of years, if not longer. Modern humans can still survive today using this weapon.

Oh yes . . . Remember the article on cooking frogs? Remember my advice for eating toads? I put carp on my list of (as the French say) "Crapo". ‘Nough said?

OK, OK, I knew someone would disagree with me here. I'll include ONE carp recipe if you "just have to prove me wrong." You may have already guessed that carp is NOT a RogueTurtle favorite food. If you want more recipes go to the web site listed below.

Carp Sandwich
Skin the carp.
Remove the redish-brown colored part of the meat: the "mud vein."
Fillet the carp. Score the fillets by cutting about two-thirds into the meat every 1/4 inch.
Cut into sandwich size pieces.
Beat one or more egg. Dip fish pieces into egg, then into salted bread crumbs, or saltine cracker crumbs.
Deep fry or pan fry in lots of oil, after oil is plenty hot (about medium to medium high).
Use your favorite bread or hamburger buns, spread bread with tartar sauce or sandwich spread. Place browned and tender fish fillets between the slices. Add whatever garnishes you'd like -- lettuce, tomato...

Source: Bass on