Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part One


Like many sportsmen, I pass a lot of time during the week getting excited for my next weekend adventure, or planning the next outdoor vacation. For all the time we spend in backwaters, we spend even more dreaming of it. It’s part of the fun. This also means that we get pretty good at researching things like maps and weather.

In this four-post series I want to share how I plan kayak bowfishing trips and the tools I use for it. A few notes before I begin:

  • While the title here contains “kayak bowfishing,” this information will be useful for any paddling, any bowfishing, and anywhere the two overlap.
  • This post DOES cover how to research regulations, plan for a safe paddle, and where to launch your paddlecraft.
  • This post DOES NOT cover where to find fish – that part of the battle is more hard-earned than reading about it online!

Researching places to paddle and bowfish can be a rabbit hole. You may spend hours planning and daydreaming about your next trip to that perfect spot, only to find that there is some obscure regulation there that specifically forbids bowfishing. Thus, I find it useful to follow a procedure that will keep this disappointment at bay. I tend to research a new spot in this order:

  1. Forums and blogs
  2. State-level regulations
  3. Launch sites
  4. Local regulations
  5. Weather
  6. River data

Forums and Blogs

We’ve come a long way since the Thompson brothers took their annual camping trips to the Florida swamps in the 1800s. I personally like to take to the field with more “traditional” equipment, but my research methods are anything but primitive. Searching for relevant forums and blogs is a natural first step for me when researching anything.

Forums are the internet equivalent of stopping at the bait shack and asking what’s biting for the day. Blogs are the internet equivalent of picking up the local paper. These are an easy way to learn the “real talk” and Google is the way to reach them, especially if you learn search operators.

I like to specifically target these kinds of results by including them in the Google query. For example, search for “bowfishing trinity river forum” instead of “bowfishing trinity river”. The former query returns nine forum results out of the ten on the first page, while searching the latter returns two. The rest are links to YouTube videos, images, or commercial websites. While these are all great, they usually don’t help much for planning purposes. If Google doesn’t pick up on results relevant to your geographical location, try including it in the search query (e.g. “texas kayak bowfishing forum”) for more relevant information.

Be sure to take what you read with a grain of salt, however. The results for my query about the Trinity River were mostly from people bowfishing from motorboats. It doesn’t help me, a paddler, to read stories of people bowfishing an oxbow only accessible by a 15 mile motorboat ride up a swiftly running river! What it does confirm is that bowfishing is legal there, that the body of water holds fish, and that I should research more about the logistics on my own.

If you don’t find anything specific to the body of water you’re considering, don’t give up! Perhaps you’ll be a pioneer and discover a honey hole to keep to yourself.

State-Level Regulations

Your state’s hunting and fishing regulations website is the next place you should look. This is where, unfortunately, a lot of my plans stop. For example, Texas Parks and Wildlife states that bowfishing is not legal on Fayette County lakes. I once had a whole tilapia bowfishing trip to the Fayette County Reservoir planned before I found this regulation and had to start over!

The state regulation website should also have information regarding legal equipment and species that are legal to take. If you’re taking fish with a crossbow in Texas, you better stay on the western side of the Sabine, because it’s not legal in Louisiana. Conversely, you can shoot redfish with a bow in Louisiana but not in Texas.

Be sure to consider the following points at this stage:

  • Is it legal to take fish with a bow in your state?
  • Do you need a fishing license, certification, or permit?
  • Is bowfishing allowed on all waters, or are there restrictions?
  • What equipment is legal?
  • What species are legal and illegal to take, and do you trust yourself to successfully identify them in the water?

Part two is out now and covers how to find a launch spot. Check it out, and if you like this post be sure to subscribe for more in the sidebar!

4 thoughts on “Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part One

  1. Pingback: Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part Two – Field and Flood

  2. Pingback: Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part Three – Field and Flood

  3. Pingback: Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part Four – Field and Flood

  4. Pingback: Planning a Kayak Bowfishing Trip: Part Zero – Field and Flood

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