Carp Bowfishing for Beginners

Pelican Flyer  |  July 01, 2020

Love fishing? Love hunting? Combine the two with bowfishing! This sport is beloved by tried-and-true outdoorsy types because it’s a unique fusion of two of the most popular sporting niches. With bowfishing, you truly get the best of both worlds: the thrill of stalking and shooting your prey mixed with a relaxing, aquatic environment. All in all, bowfishing is a great way to get outside and put your skills to the test.

What is Carp Bowfishing?

When bowfishing for carp, it's best to use a compound or recurve bow with arrows specifically designed to catch Asian carp, including silver, bighead, grass and black carp. These fish are an invasive species that have exploded in population over recent years and pose a threat to the native fish and wildlife habitats in the United States. To catch carp with a bow, you can shoot directly at the surface of the water from the shore or a boat. These fish linger in shallow depths, making them easy to spot. However, that doesn't mean catching one will be easy!

How to Go Bowfishing for Carp

Bowfishing involves learning how to identify and target fish swimming in shallow water and sneaking up on them before they spook and scurry away. If it’s your first time out, remember to aim low, because the fish is actually deeper than it appears due to water refraction. Some anglers follow the 10-4 rule — if the fish is 10 feet away and 1 foot below the surface, then aim 4 inches low. You can practice with specialty targets in the off-season to boost accuracy.

What You Need to Get Started

Besides a fishing license, you'll find most of the gear you need comes from the hunting aisle rather than the fishing aisle. Carp are highly reactive to noise and motion, so you need to be ultra-stealthy and dress like a hunter — camo is your friend! Don't forget a pair of water- and mud-proof boots. Here are a few more bowfishing essentials required for beginners.

  • A compound bow, longbow or recurve bow. Most bow enthusiasts recommend starting with an old or used bow because it's going to get gross and muddy. You can get away with a relatively basic setup when fishing carp, but be sure to invest in a high-quality bow case to keep your bow safe during transport. The Pelican Air 1745 Bow Case is a great option for getting your bowfishing gear down to the lake or river. It features a super-light polymer build with plenty of storage.
  • Fish arrows. Don’t use just any arrows for bowfishing. You need to use specially designed, barbed fish arrows that allow for a safe release after you’ve caught a fish.
  • A bow fishing reel. This mechanism allows you to crank in your reward after you’ve expertly speared it. We recommend starting with a bottle-style reel, which allows you to pull the fish in by hand without tangling. This style is excellent for beginners to use before they advance to a spin-cast reel.
  • Sun protection. Stay safe from the sun and boost your odds of reeling in a big one with SPF, a wide-brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses. Regular sunglasses just won’t do. Polarized lenses help reduce glare and allow you to see deeper into the water, which will improve your likelihood of catching a big one.
  • Protection for Your Belongings. You’ll likely be out fishing for a good bit of the day. Don’t let a dead phone or waterlogged car keys keep you from catching that massive carp. Our GO Charge Case is a good option to keep your phone charged and dry. For protecting other smaller items, like your keys, wallet and fishing license, a ruck case is ideal.
  • Bug spray and a bug net. Bugs are everywhere down by the water, so make sure to use ample bug spray and wear a mosquito net hat in especially buggy environments.
  • Fish processing gear. A fish club, fillet knife and fish stringer are essential to properly process carp. We also recommend packing a backpack cooler to keep your catch fresh and to keep snacks and water on hand.

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When to Go Bowfishing

In general, the late spring and early summer months are the best time to go bowfishing. These are the seasons when the fish tend to hang out near the surface of lakes and rivers to feed and spawn. As with any bow-related activity, it’s best to head out on days with minimal wind to ensure accuracy. Try to schedule outings on clear, dry days, as clouds and rain can compromise visibility and prevent you from spotting these elusive swimmers.

Get Out and Fish

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Pelican is here to outfit you with the right compound bow case before you head out. With the proper technique, gear and attitude, you may just reel in a record-setter on your very first excursion!

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