What Kind of Fish Can You Bowfish? What to Aim For!

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what kind of fish can you bowfish

What kind of fish can you bowfish? They aren’t the typical fish you get during a “regular” fishing session, though they still have delicious meat and put up a fight!

Read on as I show you the fish you can and should consider bowfishing.

What Kind of Fish Can You Bowfish?

Before you do get into bowfishing, take note that you can’t get just about any type of fish. Some rules and regulations control what you can and cannot bowfish for.

For instance, you can get non-sport fish in areas where bowfishing is allowed. However, certain areas may restrict catching specific fish species such as the catfish, while others allow it.

It all depends on the certain state and specific area you plan to fish in, which is why you need to make sure you read through all the rules and regulations in the place you plan to fish in. Furthermore, you’ll need to obtain the appropriate fishing license and permit for the area you’ll fish in and know what kind and how much fish you can bowfish.

With all that in mind, here are the different fish you can and should consider bowfishing:

1. Common Carp

There are various species of carp you can catch, but the Common Carp is the most popular bowfishing target in North America. It’s highly available and has a non-native status, so you can find it anywhere!

You can shoot for carp during their spring spawning season from early April to late May when water temperatures reach 62-64 degrees.

2. Buffalo

The Buffalo Fish can weigh between 20 to over-100 pounds, looking more like carp but have a stockier and humped outline without barbels. You can find buffalo in clear and fast-moving rivers or lakes with watersheds around the Gulf of Mexico. They can also be found around the Mississippi River or Canadian borders.

Just like carp, buffalo fish would spawn once water temperatures hit 62-64 degrees. They tend to spawn in large and circling pods, so stick to deeper and water waters and ambush these pods.

3. Gar

The gar is usually found in cooler and open waters, though they prefer weedy and brushy covers in warmer waters as well. You can find them in southern regions more.

The alligator gar, in particular, is the big-game species for bow fishers, which can weigh up to 150 pounds and are up to eight feet long! You can find them mostly in the Lower Mississippi River Valley and Gulf Coast areas.

You will need heavy-duty equipment if you plan to bowfish for the alligator gar. Have the sharpest points, stoutest arrows, and abrasion-resistant lines and break-away buoy systems.

4. Freshwater Drum

The freshwater drum, also known as silver bass or sheepshead, is popular in various habitats from East Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, or Hudson Bay.

Freshwater drum-like clear waters that have gravel bottoms, but can also be around turbid conditions. These fish are nocturnal, making it optimal to go nighttime bowfishing from boats. You can also find them in deeper waters with shell banks and gravel bottoms, so you may want to invest in deep-diving equipment.

5. Bowfin

The bowfin is one of the oldest fish species existing back to the Jurassic periods. It’s native to the eastern US and southeastern Canada, preferring shallow and weedy lakes with protected backwaters.

Just like other primitive fish (like the Gar), they can breathe air using swim bladders, which acts as a lung. Because of this, you can find them breaking surfaces to gulp some air. Make sure that you handle this fish carefully, as they have sharp teeth and can snap at fingers!

Bowfin is ideal bowfishing targets as they go around shallow waters and surface regularly to get air. So cruise shorelines via foot or use a boat to find a lot of them.

6. Paddlefish

The American Paddlefish is a primitive and ray-finned fish that resemble sharks. However, they are not related to sharks, with the paddlefish having an elongated and spatula-like snout, which makes it distinctive.

You can find these fish in Arkansas, Des Moines, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Yellowstone river systems. Expect these fish to reach over five feet long and weigh over 70 pounds!

When you want to catch paddlefish, find them by plying through free-flowing rivers that have shallow pools with sandy, rocky bottoms. You can get more success during the spring spawning season. They aren’t as difficult to penetrate, but you need to be quick and have a heavy-duty line to put up a fight.

7. Catfish

The catfish is another popular sport fish because of how amazing they taste! They are native from North America to southern Canada, a target for many bowfishermen because they are too deep to see. It really gives you one of the most challenging times, though you can get a good kill on the surface with proper feeding conditions.

I recommend that you target catfish by looking for them in clear Stillwater’s and rivers. Prepare to go for quick and deep shots, which require a strong compound setup.

8. Suckerfish

There are over 80 species of suckerfish around the world and may have had a bad rap because of their fleshy lips and down-turned mouths. However, most suckerfish species have succulent white meat that many bow fishermen love!

You can find and catch delicious suckerfish from the clean Southeastern and North rivers and streams. You can also aim for Southwest suckers, though some are endangered, so make sure to consult the area fisheries before aiming for them.

Tip: You can find suckerfish in clean and rocky rivers and streams, especially during their spawn season during the springtime.

Read More: The 5 Best Places to Bowfish in Florida For You to Visit!

Do you want to learn more about the different fish you can bowfish? This video shows you what to expect when bowfishing:

Wrapping It Up

I hope that this article answered your question, “what kind of fish can you bowfish?” Now that you know the answer, start training to aim for these fish species now!

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