Have you been meaning to pick up a new hobby? Do you enjoy fishing? Do you enjoy exploring Utah Lake? In this article we share a little bit about the fun experience of bowfishing! Whether you know about bowfishing or are new to learning about it, keep reading because there is always something to learn!
What is bowfishing?
Bowfishing is a method of fishing that uses specialized archery equipment (bows, arrows, crossbows) to shoot and retrieve fish – basically, it’s “hunting” with a fishing license. It is a legal fishing method that requires a fishing license. There are some key differences between bowhunting and bowfishing. When bowfishing, your targets are much closer than when you are bowhunting in the woods. When you shoot a carp in the water (carp is the only fish you can legally bowfish) your barb-tipped arrow will shoot through the fish and allow you to reel your fish in with the line attached to the arrow.
Why do people like doing it?
Most people who go bowfishing enjoy it because it is easy to learn, not very expensive, and very enjoyable. There are many great places to go bowfishing. Bowfishing is also a sport that can be picked up very easily, which is great for beginners. A lot of people enjoy this sport because of the variety that comes with it. You can go from using very simple and minimal equipment to acquiring more specialized equipment. This is an activity that many enjoy helping others learn to do.
Casey Brady who is a member of the Utah Bowfishing Association shares his experience with bowfishing and some of the reasons that he enjoys doing it.
“I hadn’t been to Utah Lake till about 5 years ago. I started duck hunting and bought a boat. I started bowfishing and getting to know the lake more. I started taking people who hadn’t been to Utah Lake, and we all started appreciating it more. You can shoot about 150+ fish in the month of may, but honestly there are so many fish it doesn’t matter when you go. My favorite time is going out at nighttime with lights because you can see the fish a little better.” -Casey Brady, member of Utah Bowfishing Association
What are some tips and tricks when bowfishing?
- Shoot from your boat (Best to do in the summer months when carp form clumps on the surface of the water)
- Wade in the water (Best to do in spawning season)
- It is best to be in a standing position on a boat deck. A deck that is elevated off the top of the boat is the best for bowfishing, as it allows you to be positioned higher up. The higher up you are the easier it is for you to spot the fish before they spot you.
- Best water and boat stability comes when it is a sunny day with little to no wind or waves
What are the challenges vs opportunities of bowfishing on Utah Lake?
Utah Lake is a great place for bowfishing. Since there is so much carp, it doesn’t take too long to hunt for them. Another great thing about bowfishing on Utah Lake is how shallow it is, which allows for more catches. However, it can be difficult at times because of how murky the water can be. One of the biggest challenges people have when bowfishing anywhere is aiming too high and missing the fish because of where the fish is in the water. The key is remembering to aim lower than where you see your target. Light refracts, which means fish can appear closer and shallower than they are. The actual depth of the fish and your distance from it determine how far below the fish you should aim. In shallow water like Utah Lake, The range you should start with is aiming at least 3-6 inches below where the fish appears to be in the water.
This link is a great resource for understanding more on how to aim when bowfishing.
“Some challenges you may come across are the fact that it can be frustrating to bowfish before the spawn since you can’t see the fish clearly because of how murky the water can get. You can see the weeds moving but can’t see the fish. Although it can be more challenging it can also make things easier because the fish can’t see you either. As you go out more you will see that the fish can behave differently on the same day. They can go from swimming singly, to spawning, to creating big groups in the middle. In my first full year doing it and going out every weekend I have caught 6 fish when fishing for a day, and I have also caught 103 in just a few hours. Being able to see things like that, seeing how the ecosystem impacts them and how they impact the lake, I have been able to look at the lake and see more value in its ecosystem.” – Bob Cassel
Ever wonder WHY Utah Lake is so shallow? Here is a great resource on understanding the water levels of Utah Lake.
What are the best places and times to bowfish?
A few of the best bowfishing lakes in Utah include Utah Lake, Lake Powell, Willard Bay, Flaming Gorge, Deer Creek, and Bear Lake. Provo and Goshen Bay are a few of the more popular places to bow fish on Utah Lake. With that in mind, just about anywhere you go on Utah Lake is going to be a great spot to bowfish for carp, because of how shallow Utah Lake is.
Some of the best times to go bowfishing are during the spring spawns or during the summer. If you go during these warm months, you can usually catch fish at any time of day. A lot of people really enjoy going bowfishing at later hours of the night.
For a map and more info on public access points at Utah Lake, visit the Utah Lake Access Points page of our website.
What are the bowfishing laws?
Bowfishing is allowed in most Utah water bodies but is only allowed for non protected, non game fish such as carp. There are also certain waters where you are allowed to bow fish for carp only. Utah Lake is one of those water bodies that only allows you to bowfish for carp. Most areas allow you to bowfish at night with the use of spotlights. However, there are some exceptions. The tributaries of Utah Lake are closed to bowfishing at night from May 1 until 6 a.m. on July 10. In the 2022 Fishing Guidebook (pg. 14) it states: “Please remember that archery tackle and crossbows are considered weapons and cannot be discharged within 600 feet of a structure. Also, local communities may have ordinances against the discharge of weapons within city limits. If possible, please check with your local city office to make sure you are following all the rules. If you have additional questions about bowfishing or the places you can bow fish, please contact your local Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office.”
What do you need to bowfish?
The three main components for bowfishing include a bow, a reel with heavy line, and a fishing arrow. There are a variety of reels that vary in their design and the method of line retrieval. Arrows used for fishing are generally much heavier than traditional arrows. There is much more you can do to acquire specialized equipment; however, these three things are the basic components of what is needed.
How can you stay safe while bowfishing?
In any activity you are participating in there are good safety precautions to take. Some of these safety precautions for bowfishing include going in a group or having a partner with you in case of an accident, have the proper safety devices on your boat that are needed and lastly be sure that the line is free and not entangled with part of the bow.
Here is a great resource on some safety tips to remember when participating in activities on the lake!
If you are looking for a community or are interested in learning more visit the links below that will lead you to a few of the Bowfishing associations along with some of the resources used to create this blog post!
A big thanks to Bob Cassel and Casey Brady for sharing some of their knowledge and great information on bowfishing.
Bowfishing: the complete guide- https://fishingbooker.com/blog/bowfishing-the-complete-guide/
What is bowfishing- https://thefisheriesblog.com/2017/05/22/what-is-bowfishing/
Why bowfishing is gaining popularity- https://hikingandfishing.com/bowfishing/#:~:text=Bowfishing%20is%20great%20fun%20and,you%20may%20really%20enjoy%20bowfishing.
How to bowfish in Utah- https://bowfishingforfun.com/bowfishing-guide-how-to-bowfish-in-utah/
Bowfishing laws in the United States- https://www.loxleybowfishing.com/blogs/bowfishing-tips-and-tricks/bowfishing-laws
Which type of boat deck to get for bowfishing-https://www.loxleybowfishing.com/blogs/bowfishing-tips-and-tricks/which-type-of-boat-deck-should-you-build-for-bowfishing