Bowfishing is excellent and exiting fishing technique that uses bows and arrows for catching fish. It requires great accuracy, patients, often strength and stamina, nerves etc. Game fish is species that can be seen on the surface or species that tend to jump above water - misses are common, especially for beginners. Some countries allow year round bow fishing on environmental destructive and harmful species - anything to decrease number of invasive, imported spices that destroy habitat and decrease numbers of local species.
Aiming at Fish in Water
Biggest problem with bowfishing is - hitting the game fish with an arrow. Smart, right? Problem is light refraction on air-water boundary, due to which, objects in the water appear higher than they actually are. Common advice is: 'When in doubt, aim low, then aim little lower.' There are several formulas for calculating at which angle to fire an arrow to hit the fish, but they are quite complex if they take into account every factor needed for scoring hit. Therefore, best thing to do is - practice your aiming - submerge target into the water and shoot at various distances to the target, depths of the target, shooting height, angle toward the sun etc. And of course - go bowfishing :o)
Aiming at Fish Above Water Surface
One of my favorite - it can be compared with hitting speeding mullet (or any similarly fast fish) under the water with speargun. Misses are common, especially when small specimens are present. But when you hit jackpot, then fishing can be very successful. Aiming time is very short and must be done instinctively - be very careful about safety of other people or animals around.
Generally, when bowfishing, if in doubt about hit or you have obstacles in the field of view, don't release your arrow - what in one moment can look like rock, can be somebody's hand, leg ... Safety first, always!
Bows - most bows for bowfishing are compound bows which are both strong, lightweight and relatively small. Wooden bows are sometimes used by some bowfishing enthusiasts, but they are heavier, larger, harder to maintain, slower to reload, require more strength and stamina ...
Draw weight for modern bows is up to 55kg (120 pounds), but it depends on many personal preferences. 30-40kg draw weights are more common.
Crossbows are sometimes used - they can have larger draw weights than bows, but are mechanically more complex.
Arrows - bowfishing arrows are much heavier and stronger than 'ordinary' arrows used in other types of archery due to stress of impacting the water, fish and other objects and surfaces (sea bottom, for example). They are most commonly made out of fiberglass, solid aluminum, carbon fiber and other similarly strong, but relatively lightweight, materials. Shooting ranges are short, so bowfishing arrows don't have stabilizers (in the form of fletching) - these could cause arrow to change course under water. Some crossbow arrows do have rigid stabilizers (usually made of carbon fiber), but these arrows are designed for specific crossbow.
Line - lines are used to pull in game fish. Depending on the size of the catch, line weights range from 30 - 150kg (depending on numerous factors). When bowhunting for animals like alligators (ok, we are seafishing site, but ...), line test weights are up to 300kg.
Reels - reels are used for storing line and often for retrieving arrows and caught fish. When bowfishing larger specimens, lines are sometimes connected to floats. There are three types of reels that are commonly used in bowfishing: hand-wrap, spincast and retriever.
Glasses - glasses help in having a good visual of the game fish. At night glasses are unnecessary, as light is used to see through the water. But, on a sunny days, in order to see the fish in the water, polarized sun glasses are helpful since they cut the glare on top of the water.
Gloves - gloves protect hands during aiming, during line pulling (arrow doesn't kill fish instantly, so be prepared for some fighting) and sometimes from fish itself and it's spines and kicks.
Why I don't like bowfishing?
I really like spearfishing and bowfishing, but there are few things that I don't like about them:
- beginners often shoot at fish without aiming well - fish can get off the spear/arrow and probably die soon. If you are not certain that you will hit the fish, don't shoot.
- spearfishing and bowfishing can be very selective form of fishing with almost no by-catch. Well, do it that way or don't do it all - shoot at larger specimens of species that are not endangered. These opportunities are rare, so enjoy when they happen. If one shoots at small fish, soon there will be no fish at all ...
Note: spearguns and bows are used to kill fish. They can also hurt/kill other animals and humans - safety first!