Part one of this series began with a discussion about researching forums and blogs and state-level bowfishing regulations. Part two continued to discuss finding launch sites. Check them out if you missed them.
I find that local regulations are the greatest impediment to launching a kayak and shooting fish. Therefore, it would make sense for this to be the first step in finding a new place to bowfish – except you have to narrow down where to launch before you can look for local regulations.
State-level regulations are easily found, but local regulations are less obvious and are only found by those who seek them. You will need to seek these out because you will be expected to know them.
If I search for places to paddle within a reasonable day-trip drive length around me, it looks like I see a lot of great options. If I exclude places with restrictive regulations, however, my options are thinned considerably. The image below shows what I’m talking about.
Below are examples of these restrictions and where to learn about them. You’ll see that the information is not centralized and, in some cases, requires some persistence to find it:
- Lake Houston: banned by a city ordinance.
- Lake Texana: forbidden without explicit permission. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department page for this lake includes a link to the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority’s website. Follow the link, then click Programs, then Fish and Wildlife Management, then search the text for “bowfishing”, and you’ll see nothing. Search instead for “bow fishing” you’ll see that bowfishing is allowed on certain portions, and only with a signed permit. Not that easy to find, right? A call to their office reveals that this permit is only attainable in-person, and is therefore only available when their office is open – i.e. when people are rarely out bowfishing. While the people at the office were polite and very helpful, I cannot help but feel that this process if designed to make bowfishing practically illegal there.
- Smithers Lake: this is a power plant with tight security, much to the dismay of any fisherman that’s seen it on Google Maps!
- Lake Fayette: forbidden by the Lower Colorado River Authority. In fact, I personally avoid the Colorado basin altogether due to their weird regulations. I assume this is a prime breeding ground for diminishing gar populations, in which case it is understandable.
- Lake Conroe: bowfishing isn’t forbidden, but there is a ban on shooting grass carp. Grass carp were once stocked in this lake to help fight a growing hydrilla problem.
- Lake Texoma: no targeting alligator gar, but only in May and in certain areas.
You can see that while my state-level parks and wildlife department did a fine job pointing out instances where exceptions may occur, they couldn’t keep up with all of the relevant details. Luckily, most of the local authorities that govern these waterways have contact information posted directly to the Texas Parks and Wildlife department pages, which is convenient. In the end, it was still up to me to seek them out and give due consideration to local regulations. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you find a worthy launch site:
- Does the state-level website mention any special considerations about the body of water?
- Does the state-level website have contact information for who may locally govern the body of water?
- Is it a camping area? State park? National park? Wilderness area? Wildlife refuge? Wildlife management area (WMA)?
- Is there a river authority?
Part four will come out soon with a discussion on researching weather and avoiding hazardous water conditions. Subscribe in the sidebar to keep reading!