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Bow Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Noah on Friday, 07 June 2013. Posted in Fishing Advice

Bow fishing has become incredibly popular in Florida over the last few years. The sport is growing and many are practicing their archery skills to improve their accuracy. Using a bow and arrow is a very primitive form of hunting and it allows you to interact with your prey on a more personal level. This ancient method dates as far back as the earliest of prehistoric men and it is still widely preferred today. Catching fish with a bow and arrow is completely different to using traditional tackle and gear. Anglers delight in the action, risk, excitement and the additional danger. We highly recommend experiencing some fantastic bow fishing in Florida.

Why is bow fishing popular in Florida?

Using a bow and arrow to catch fish swimming haphazardly underwater is an extraordinary challenge that is absolutely exhilarating. Not only does your aim need to be very accurate, but you need to hit the right spot too. Many of the fish that we are allowed to catch with a bow have exceptional fighting spirit. You need to ensure that the barbs of your arrow stay hooked in the fish while they are trying to get away from you. Pull too hard and you risk the barbs coming out as well. While this is happening, you also need to be exceptionally fast on the throttle of your boat in order to follow your arrowed fish. At the same time, you need to feed out your line and avoid getting it wrapped around structures. Once the fish begins to give up the fight, you can gather your slack line while reeling in the fish.

Where does bow fishing occur in Florida?

In Florida, bow fishing occurs in both freshwater and saltwater. If we head out to sea, we usually use a chum (or other form of teaser) to excite the fish and get them to come closer to our boat so that we can take fair aim. Inshore saltwater and freshwater methods involve using a boat with a quiet electric motor or a skiff that we push around with long poles. We like to keep as quiet as possible in this environment because we do not want to scare any fish away. After all, the idea is to get them to come within shooting range. Regardless of where you are bow fishing, you will require high visibility. You need to be able to see the fish congregating in protective shelters or swimming through the water. For this reason, calm water without ripples is ideal for bow fishing in Florida.

What techniques are used for bow fishing in Florida?

Usually a spinning reel is mounted on the hunting bow – sometimes a storage bottle wound with fishing line. Depending on where you are fishing, between twenty-five and a hundred yards of line should be on your reel. This line is attached to your arrow and ensures you never lose it. It also means that the fish can be reeled in. Many anglers favoring bow fishing prefer to use handlines. It makes the sport more primitive and appealing. Unless you have spectacular archery skills, you are likely to miss more fish than you actually hit. This is how it works:

  • The first thing to do is to locate the fish. You can use a teaser or you can stalk them. Either way, you need to be able to clearly see the fish and get close enough to it to take aim.
  • Once you have a fish in sight, you can aim and release your arrow. If you miss the fish then you need to reel in your arrow and repeat until you hit one.
  • When you hit the fish, you need to release your line so that the fish can run. Make sure that neither the fish nor the line gets stuck in any obstructions that will break the line. An arrow will seriously injure the fish and will probably kill it. This is why it is important to get your fish onto the boat every time you hit one, so try your utmost not to lose the fish (or your expensive arrow).
  • When the fish tires sufficiently, you can reel it in.
  • Depending on the species of fish you have snagged, be very careful when handling it. Stingrays are among the favored species to target and they are incredibly dangerous, as are a variety of others. Some people even target alligators, so make sure that safety is your main priority.
  • Once you have dealt with the fish, release your arrow and repeat the process.

What fish are the most commonly caught while bow fishing in Florida?

Tilapia, mullets, certain rays, gar, drums, sheepshead, catfish, common carp, bowfin, eels, pickerel, shad, shiners, killifish, suckers, minnows and even alligators are targeted for bow fishing. There are stringent rules and regulations in place regarding what fish can be caught with a bow and arrow. Before you go hunting, it is advisable that you be sure of them. No game fish are allowed to be hunted with bows and arrows, regardless of whether they are freshwater or saltwater fish. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.

If you are going bow fishing in Florida, you are guaranteed an exceptionally thrilling adventure. However, there are places where it is not acceptable to shoot arrows. These include many parks, refuges and sanctuaries; particularly during their busy seasons. Anywhere where a stray arrow may harm something or someone else must be avoided. Respecting the rules, regulations and safety of others will ensure that bow fishing continues to grow in Florida.

Call now to book your Bow Fishing Charter and discover the most thrilling way to catch fish.

About the Author

Capt. Noah

Capt. Noah

Noah is a United States Coast Guard licensed captain and PADI divemaster. He grew up in South Florida and has a passion for all things involving water. He is one of the rare bread of boaters who loves sailing and power boating. Noah sails competitvely and enjoys travelling, photography, and cooking. 


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