By Rich Porter

It’s that time of year again for those of us who feel the need to get out and bowfish. The spring and summer are as special for carp as the fall rut is for deer. Visions of spawning carp, feeding bigheads, cruising buffalo and grass carp coming into range. The monstrous fight that comes with the contact of the arrow. It’s no wonder that bowfishing is a growing sport that fits nicely into the archers off season.

From the Missouri River with all the variety, to the Mississippi with all the backwater a bowfisher could hope for, Iowa is a great place to sharpen one’s archery skills. With the many lakes and pits, rivers and ponds, there is an abundance of places to arrow a rough fish. Some of the best places are the easiest to find and gain access to. Lake Red Rock stands out as well as Lake Rathburn due to plenty of common carp, grass carp and buffalo in those lakes, not to mention drum and gar. The Des Moines River as well as the Missouri has an over abundance of bighead carp, the latest invasive exotic to call our public waterways home. With the average bighead weighing 20 plus pounds, these fish are a bowfisherman’s dream.

The bonus of bowfishing is that most of the fish we target are not native to our waters and can do harm to our lakes and rivers. They also compete for food with the native fish and are known to have a negative effect on water quality and habitat. Bowfishermen and women can be proud of the fact that they help out in removing these unwanted species.

Getting started is as easy as a visit to your local archery store. A bow that draws between 35 and 50lbs is the preferred choice of most archers. A reel of some kind to get the arrow and fish back to you and some special bowfishing arrows and you’re ready for the water. I have two bowfishing bows. One is setup for deeper water fishing and one is for the fast action of spawning fish. My deep setup is a used Oneida bow set at 70lbs with a whisker biscuit rest, heavy arrows and an AMS Retriever reel with 200lb line. This lets me shoot at fish in deep water; I also use it when targeting big fish. The other bow is an old Pearson that has a synergy reel with 150lb fast flight string and a roller rest. This setup allows me to retrieve my arrow quickly and have a faster follow up shot when the fish seem to be everywhere. Always remember to aim low when bowfishing. Due to water refraction, the fish are always deeper than they appear. A pair of polarized sunglasses is a must for any bowfisher.

If you would like some friendly competition, The Bowfishing Association of Iowa hosts several tournaments throughout the year. Their website is and you can view upcoming tournaments there.

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