6 BowfishingTips to Get Started

Beka Garris is a diehard when it comes to bowfishing.

If you’re an avid bowhunter, the spring and summer months can be excruciating. Flinging carbon at foam in preparation for a season that remains months away can get downright dull. Fishing helps scratch the outdoor itch, but nothing compares to shooting your bow.

That was my attitude until about four years ago. That’s when, during a particularly slow summer, I decided I would teach myself to bowfish. It quickly became my passion and now summers don’t last nearly long enough. The rivers and creeks became my home away from home, and somehow I became known locally as “That Bowfishing Girl.”

I encountered innumerable surprises along the way—many of which I wasn’t prepared for, all of which I wish I had known about ahead of time. It’s time to learn from my mistakes.

Beka Garris bowfishing
The author with a big gar.

Most people are under the impression that bowfishing must be an expensive sport. Fact is, it doesn’t have to be. My first setup only cost me about $30. Most of it was old equipment that my dad had lying around the garage. I started out bowfishing with a Browning youth model compound and a metal Bear archery hand reel from the 1970s. I shot as accurately and killed just as many fish with that bow as I do now with my upgrade. You can easily put together a decent setup for about $120. Craigslist and eBay are a great source for used bows, as are pawn shops and yard sales. I’ve picked up several extra bows for $25 apiece off Craigslist. Just keep in mind you want the draw weight to be somewhere in between 25 and 50 pounds.

Depending on what type of reel you are looking to purchase, the price will vary. You can get a basic hand reel for $10, and the simplicity of these is great. If you’re looking for an AMS bottle reel or Muzzy spinner, you can pick up either of these with line for under $60. Fiberglass bowfishing arrows can run between $10 and $20 each, depending on the brand. Arrows and tips are one thing I don’t buy cheap, as they are the key to bringing your fish all the way in. When in doubt, go with a grapple tip.

cooking carp
Yes, you can eat what you shoot.

Contrary to popular belief, many fish targeted with a bow are great to eat. Despite their somewhat hideous appearance, long-nosed gar taste great, especially their deer-like backstraps. They are easily my favorite to clean and cook. You must use caution when cleaning female gar, as the eggs are poisonous to all mammals. Take care to rinse the meat well. Gar skulls…

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