If you’re eager to hit the road in search of bowfishing adventures, include these locales in your travel plans.
Taking your boat out in search of carp or stalking the shores of your local creek is always a blast, but sometimes you get the itch to arrow new species in new places loaded with targets. If you’re ready to travel in pursuit of a different kind of bowfishing adventure, these are the top five destinations to add to your bucket list.
Test and prep your gear on your home waters before embarking on a big bowfishing trip. Image by Realtree
FLORIDA GULF COAST
For a variety of saltwater species and a target-rich environment, head to the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast. Clear, warm coastal waters make the area prime for spotting sizable stingrays and firing hundreds of shots per day. Although stingrays are plentiful and provide a large, flat shooting surface, their quick movements make for a fun bowfishing challenge. In addition to rays heavier than 100 pounds, you can expect to draw on sheepshead, mullet, black drum, spadefish, and more.
Rather than the typical bowfishing trip after dark with lights, Florida’s Destin Bow Fishing sticks to daytime charters for better target visibility from a distance. This allows shooters extra time to prep for the shot on approach and makes for a great option for beginners and families. Chris Kirby, Destin Bow Fishing’s captain, monitors the Emerald Coast daily to pattern stingrays and ensure its 100% success rate. A do-it-yourself trip is possible, but booking with a guide who knows the Gulf Coast is best.
There’s no bad time to bowfish Florida’s Gulf Coast, but February through early spring usually offers the best conditions and the most action for various species.
Focusing on low incoming tides is your best bet for catching sheepshead near oyster bars in shallow water. With their broad bodies and tendency to travel in schools, these tasty fish make relatively easy targets along the Gulf Coast.
Stingrays usually concentrate farther offshore and cruise the Gulf’s floor. Rays provide bowfishermen with great shooting windows from a distance and offer plenty of opportunity well into summer.
Don’t Miss: GUIDE TO SUMMERTIME TOPWATER BAITS
Texas waters boast great bowfishing throughout the entire state, but the southern portion offers arguably the best opportunity in the country for big alligator gar.
Choke Canyon and Sam Rayburn reservoirs, Media Lake, Falcon Lake, and Lake Amistad — where Twisted Arrow Bowfishing consistently puts clients on tons of potential trophies —have reputations for excellent alligator gar bowfishing. Day or night, slowly inspect shallow areas for these prehistoric-looking creatures. If you see schooling bait fish suddenly scatter, there’s a good chance a gator gar is close behind.
But you’ll see more than just alligator gar in southern Texas. If you want to do a lot of shooting at a diverse group of fish, southern Texas has plenty waters to fill day after day.
Man-made reservoirs along power plants, such as San Antonio’s Braunig and Calaveras lakes, stay warm, providing perfect conditions for shooting tilapia. These smart, wary fish spook easily, so quick drawing and shooting as soon as you identify your target is a must. Invasive suckermouth catfish have become a threat to native species, making them another great option to pursue in southern Texas lakes such as Calaveras.
Many southern Texas waters are also home to carp, drum, and longnose gar. Coleto Creek, Lake Fairfield, and Gibbons Creek are some of the top producers. Buffalo weighing 30 to 40 pounds aren’t uncommon in the area, and they put up a great fight for determined bowfishermen.
Spring is a popular time for bowfishing in southern Texas, but the hot summer months from June through August, when water temperatures peak, see a significant increase in surface activity.
Before heading south, check with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as the agency might temporarily prohibit bowfishing for alligator gar in certain waters when conditions are prime for spawning.
Because conditions that affect activity can be fickle and regulations can be complicated, it’s best to book with a southern Texas outfitter that’s constantly tracking changes.
Traveling for greater bowfishing experiences can pay off in awesome adventures and many pounds of fish. Image by Realtree
If monster carp — think 45-pound lunkers — are on your bucket list, add Lake Michigan to the agenda. The Great Lakes offer some great bowfishing, but you can’t beat Lake Michigan, especially its southern shore near Gary, Indiana.
During the spring spawn and well into summer, common carp saturate these waters and offer shooters incredible bowfishing. Lake Michigan also holds other arrow-able species, including buffalo and drum.
It’s the perfect DIY destination, as you can have about as much success shooting from the banks or wading the shallows as you can bowfishing by boat. In fact, you can shuffle through clear, knee-deep water for hours and pick off carp constantly when conditions are right.
Miles of the southern shore are filled with fish in warm-water bays and harbors near old steel mills, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore makes spotting carp in ankle-deep marshes a breeze. Farther north, Traverse Bay and Beaver Island are also bowfishing hotspots during warm-weather months.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources views common carp as a nuisance and encourages outdoorsmen to arrow as many as they can in these areas, so the agency can be a great resource when planning a trip to Lake Michigan.
Don’t Miss: HOW TO FISH FOR SHELLCRACKERS
LOUISIANA GULF COAST
Brackish waters and lax restrictions make Louisiana’s Gulf Coast an exciting place to arrow a wide range of species. Gar, redfish, drum, sheepshead, flounder, catfish — you’ll get your shot at a great mix of freshwater and saltwater fish in bayou country.
You can bowfish in Louisiana year-round, but prime time will depend on your target species and weather conditions, which can quickly change water clarity. Generally, the winter months from December through February see sluggish fish congregating in one spot, which can make them easier targets. According to Graylin Schulthies, captain of After Hours Bowfishing, March through April and October through November usually offer the clearest waters for quick identification, and summers can be unpredictable weather-wise.
The Grand Isle region, which features bays and marshes, is home to about every Louisiana species you can bowfish. And where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico in Plaquemines Parish, you’re sure to spot plenty of targets.
A reputable outfitter with a thorough understanding of the waters, limits, and other regulations makes navigating the bayou safer and significantly increases odds of success. Bowfishing is booming in Louisiana, so you’ll find no shortage of options when searching for an experienced guide.
Beaching that whale of a fish is a great bowfishing feeling. Image by Realtree
The Mississippi offers some great bowfishing where it flows into the Gulf, but there’s plenty more to explore along the 2,300-mile river. It’s loaded with common carp throughout its course, and alligator gar are prevalent as the water grows wider and more treacherous farther south. The Mississippi River also holds longnose gar, spotted gar, buffalo, drum, silver carp, and several other species. A man arrowed a then-record 223-pound alligator gar in the river’s namesake state in 2019, so this is the place to go for a bowfishing trophy.
Joe Williams, of northwestern Mississippi’s Arrow-In Addiction Bowfishing, said you can’t go wrong with any type of pursuit on the river, but aerial bowfishing charters for flying silver carp can be the most exhilarating and challenging.
If you’re on the hunt for big buffalo and carp, searching cooler, shallow water around the spring spawn will yield the best results. Night or day, focus on areas with aquatic vegetation or newly flooded spots along the shores. Gar are more commonly found sunning in these shallow waters come summer, making them killable during daylight.
Oxbows off the river — such as Lake Ferguson, Yucatan Lake, Chotard Lake, and Albemarle Lake — offer some of the best low-traffic, shallow-water bowfishing along the Mississippi. But about anywhere you enter the river, from north to south, you won’t be far from a few bowfishing species.
Because the Mississippi River flows through or along 10 states, check individual bowfishing regulations for each state, as legal species and methods can vary.
Don’t Miss: HOW TO CATCH MORE BASS FROM A KAYAK
Watch all the latest video episodes