All about bowfishing

If you’re looking for a fun, outdoor activity to do this summer, LG and I recommend bowfishing. It gets you outdoors, helps keep your archery muscles in shape, is a challenge and is a ton of fun.



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About bowfishing

Rules and regulations for bowfishing vary from state to state. It is always important to check the rules, but many states allow the take of common carp, grass carp, Asian carp and other non-native species.


About non-native carp

Carp are a non-native, nuisance species. A U.S. Geological Survey  shares that the common carp is regarded as a pest fish, because of its widespread abundance and because of its tendency to destroy vegetation. Silt re-suspension and uprooting of aquatic plants caused by feeding activities can disturb spawning and nursery areas of native fishes. The survey also cites evidence that carp prey on the eggs of other fish species. That makes it harder for fish, like Colorado’s native trout, to repopulate.




Where to bowfish

We’ve found carp in lakes, ponds and the lower sections of slow-moving rivers.

Carp have been spotted in all areas of our lake, but we’ve been most successful arrowing them near the banks and water structures, including docks, buoys and water breaks. Carp enjoy eating vegetation, detritus and plankton that grow on and near these areas.


What you need for bowfishing

A boat comes in handy for moving from one area to another on a lake, but it‘s not necessary. You can bowfish while wading in shallow water.


  • Bow: Types of bows range from traditional longbows, to recurve and compound bows. Generally it’s a matter of budget as to which bow you take out on the water, but there are companies such as AMS Bowfishing that have bows specifically for use around water.
  • Reels: The set-up for your arrow and line may vary. Some bows offer a canister system; others offer a system that is similar to a fishing reel. Some of our friends have homemade reels that hold the line, similar to a garden hose reel. A line that is made of nylon is soft, light and will prevent cuts to your hands. An arrow with line is imperative, so you are able to retrieve the arrow and corresponding fish without taking a swim.
  • Arrows and tips: Most arrow shafts are fiberglass, but carbon and aluminum are available, for a higher price. The most common tips for bowfishing arrows have sharp points with barbed tips. This style tip allows an arrow to penetrate a fish and the barbs prevent it from being pulled back out.

From the above list of required bowfishing items, it may have become apparent this is NOT a catch-and-release sport.



(Hunter Thompson photo)


What to do with an arrowed carp

As I mentioned, state laws vary as to what to do with an arrowed carp. In Colorado we are able to bank our fish to feed eagles, ravens and other predators. In the past, we have also saved some for use as bait in LG’s traps. I’ve given some to friends who grind them up and use them as mulch in their gardens. AND, now, due to a friend’s challenge, we’ve had some for supper.


Carp for dinner

We had never kept a carp for dinner, because they are so stinky, even when they’re alive. My and LG’s consensus about carp for dinner? It’s not that bad. It’s also not the best fish we’ve ever had. It’s pretty boney. The white portion of the fish is much better than the red portion. We would definitely eat it again — if we had to.




Brined and breaded carp recipe


  • 4 C. water
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 to 6 carp (or other fish) fillets cut into 1-inch strips
  • 4 C. vegetable oil
  • 1-½ C. Kikkoman Panko Japanese Style bread crumbs
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
    • Seasoned salt
    • Ketchup, tartar or other dipping sauce, to taste

In a small bowl, stir together water, salt and sugar to create a brine. Add carp fillets to the brine and soak 4 to 6 hours.

Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Remove carp fillets from brine. Blot excess water. Dip fillets in beaten eggs, then roll in bread crumbs. Transfer immediately to hot vegetable oil. Fry breaded fillets, flipping, so they are golden brown on both sides. Set cooked fillets aside on paper towel. Sprinkle, to taste, with seasoned salt. Enjoy!

  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.