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Ready to have fun bowfishing? Here are top destinations


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Bowfishing is becoming more popular.

Indiana is blessed with numerous rivers and reservoirs that offer excellent bowfishing opportunities. The Wabash River, the East and West forks of the White River, the Ohio River, Brookville Lake, Lake Monroe and Patoka Lake are some of the larger and better-known waters where bowfishing thrives.

Another big aspect of bowfishing is traveling. Hooking the boat up and hitting the highway in search of new waters teaming with rough fish is what trips the triggers of a lot of bowfishermen. If you’re looking for a few out-of-town destinations to bowfish, here are five I recommend.

Bull Shoals Lake

Tucked away in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, Bull Shoals Lake is one of the most scenic, sportsman-friendly and underutilized waters in America.

This 45,000-acre impoundment of the White River is best known for bass and walleye fishing, but it truly is a bowfishing paradise. Water clarity is phenomenal, and competition is scarce. Along with the strong populations of common carp and gar, you can legally bowfish for catfish on Bull Shoals during the open season.

Top species: Catfish, common carp, gar

Missouri River

From its origin at Three Forks, Montana, through its many impoundments of South Dakota and on through Nebraska and Iowa, the Missouri offers exceptional bowfishing opportunity. The uninterrupted stretch from Kansas City to St. Louis is big-river bowfishing. You’re dealing with the Big Muddy, here. It’s no joke. This is a strong and powerful waterway. The fish feel it too, so look for them behind wing dikes, in large eddies and at confluences with smaller rivers and creeks.

Top species: Gar, paddlefish, common carp, Asian carp

Trinity River

Texas has more outstanding bowfishing water than the rest of the country combined. To pick one waterway and say it’s the best without argument is impossible. But so is trying to argue the Trinity River shouldn’t be in the conversation of overall best.

If you want to shoot an alligator gar, then the Trinity has to be on your short list of places to go. From Dallas to Houston, this river is a producer.

Top species: Alligator gar, common carp, buffalo, drum, bowfin

Florida Gulf Coast

From the party capital of Panama City down to the Keys, Florida’s entire stretch of Gulf Coast offers excellent bowfishing opportunities. Sandy beaches, 80-degree temperatures, palm trees and daiquiris sound pretty good anytime of the year. For those of us residing north of the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s paradise come February.

The abundance of saltwater species, the year-round fishery and the exquisite edibility of the targets make the Florida Gulf Coast a dream destination for shooting fish.

Top species: Stingray, sheepshead, mullet, catfish, flounder, drum, spade fish

Illinois River at Peoria

If you’ve never been on a river infested with jumping silver carp, then it’s hard to truly grasp the spectacle. Watching it on television doesn’t do= it justice.

Twenty-pound-plus fish are blowing by your head. If and when one smacks you, it hurts. Shooting these invasive species out of the air is an absolute riot. You don’t need a guide. Any boat with a motor will work.

Have your shooters ready when you lay the hammer down on the throttle, because silver streaks of flying fish are soon going to be coming at you from every direction. Plucking one out of the air is tough. Hope you paid attention in high school physics.

Top species: Asian carp (silvers and bigheads)

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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