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Fishing Saltwater

Saltwater Bowfishing

by Wm. Hovey Smith   |  July 26th, 2012 4

One of the best times for bow fishing the marshes is after the sun sets. Photo by John E. Phillips.

All down the eastern seaboard of the United States saltwater bowfishing allows those with an adventurous bend to take a variety of interesting creatures. These not only include the carp and gar from estuary and tidal waters that fall under saltwater fishing regulations, but tasty flounder and off-the-wall species like stingrays.

Generally, saltwater species may be taken by bow fishing, provided that the bow fisherman abides by the same regulations as their hook-and-line brothers. There are significant exceptions, and some areas prohibit saltwater bowfishing for particular species.

Popular species, like the redfish and sharks, have the most restrictions on locations, fishing methods and size. This is a challenge for the bow fisherman as he must identify and size-up his fish before he looses an arrow at it. The applicable rule is, “if you don’t know it, don’t shoot it.”

Nonetheless, much fun can be had taking species like flounder, sheepshead and drum or even sharpening your shooting eye on mullet. Besides fish, the smaller rays provide common targets and the cow-nosed ray is a larger species that oystermen would like fewer of, as they feed on oysters. These rays also provide some good eats, as will be explained later.

One nasty that is hated by shrimpers is the gafftopsail catfish, which has a tall dorsal spine that can give a very painful infection-prone sting. This spine can easily penetrate the tennis shoes of the deck crew as they attempt to shuffle them off the boat’s deck.

If one is after the usual run of smaller saltwater species, the same bow and arrow used for taking carp and gar work well enough. It is not so much that specialized equipment is needed; it is that anything used in salt water must be cleaned in fresh water to remove any salt to prevent corrosion. This includes soaking your braided line in fresh water before spooling it back onto your reel.

For those not up on their bowfishing gear, powerful bows, such as one might use on deer, are not needed for general bowfishing. Instead of taking a single shot at a deer, you may shoot hundreds of time during a night of bowfishing, and bows with a 40-pound draw are more than adequate. Some bowfishermen use the Mathews Genesis, which has a pull weight of about 22 pounds.

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