Can You Bow Fish for Trout?

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If traditional fishing methods are not your cup of tea, you might want to try your hand at bow fishing. Bow fishing is a method of catching fish with archery equipment (bow and arrow) in clear water. Anglers need to get into very close proximity with their prey when bow fishing. The fish are shot with a bow and arrow and reeled in on an attached line. Many prefer this type of fishing because it is quick and effective. But what fish can you catch with bow fishing?

Can you bow fish for trout? Yes, you can bow fish for trout unless the area legally disallows it. All non-sport fish can be legally bow fished in areas where bow fishing is allowed. Trout are typically fished in the US from November to April. When bow fishing trout, a permit is required and the stipulated daily catch limits must be adhered to.

I am quite new to the sport of bow fishing and I must admit that not many anglers opt for this style of fishing. Something else that I learned was that you cannot bow fish just any fish you want. Some fish are completely out of bounds meaning that it is illegal to bow fish for certain species. Luckily, if you are a trout angler, you will find many places that you can catch them with a bow and arrow. Read on to learn more about bow fishing for trout and a few tips for a good catch.

The Limitations and Rules of Bow Fishing for Trout

While bow fishing is allowed in most areas, there are limitations in place to ensure that fishing practices are fair and safe. Bow fishing is typically allowed at most bodies of water unless otherwise stated. That being said; it is always a good idea to ask if you are unsure. Fishing permissions may vary from one state to the next, but it is a standard requirement for anglers to be in possession of a fishing permit before they head out to bow fish. You also need to have decent equipment and knowledge of how to use it. You cannot put other’s safety at risk.

When catching trout with a bow and arrow, make sure that you look into the daily catch limit where you are fishing. It is also a good idea to check whether you are allowed to take fish out or if there is a catch-and-release system in place. Again, it’s a really good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules in that particular area.

While the rules may vary, it is important to be aware of the following general rules and limitations:

  • When bow fishing your arrowheads must be barbed,
  • Each arrow must be attached to the bow with a fishing line,
  • You cannot bow fish in water that is within 50 yards of a campsite, picnic site, boat dock, or public area.

Tips for Bow Fishing Trout | How to Bow Fish for Trout

I have found that Rainbow trout is one of the most popular types of fish to bow fish because they can be found almost anywhere with a good climate. They are also a typically popular fish for the table, so most people that bow fishes them go on to cook and eat them too. They are also fairly easy to aim an arrow at as they grow to around 13 inches in length and weigh around a pound. Because they eat almost anything, you can find them with relative ease.

I have found that the tips and advice shared by other avid anglers have often helped to improve my experience on the shore or in the water. With this in mind, I put a few together for newbie bow anglers. If you want to go on an effective trout bow fishing expedition, consider a few of the bow fishing tips below:

  • Use the right arrowhead when bow fishing.

You cannot use just any arrowhead when bow fishing trout. You need to keep the type of fish you are targeting in mind when choosing an arrowhead. The arrowhead should be barbed, but there is more to it than that. If you have a flimsy blade, it will snap when trying to pull out bigger trout. If you want to have the best success, opt for a 3 prong arrowhead with blades sturdy enough to pull a medium fish out of the water. Choosing the wrong arrowheads will result in losing your catch.

  • Keep your arrowheads sharp for the best bow fishing results.

I have found that fishing in rocky areas causes the arrowheads to wear down and become blunt. The danger with this is that a blunt arrow makes a big entry hole in the trout and often the fish slips right off the arrow. You can sharpen your own arrowheads by grinding or filing them. Alternatively, buy arrowheads with tips that screw off so that you can replace them as needed.

  • Get out of the boat and off of the shore when bow fishing.

Some anglers tend to bow fish over the side of the boat or while wading on the shoreline. I personally think that it makes more sense to venture to little coves and rocks. You can’t reach most of these places by boat. You will find some bigger fish or unexpected catches hiding away just around corners and rocks, so be prepared to get away from the shore and out of your boat. After all, you are essentially hunting and to do that you have to get out of your comfort zone.

  • Clean and oil your spinner reel before bow fishing for trout.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as seeing the perfect trout, aiming, hitting the push-button release and watching your line tangle and not. Or simply get stuck. Anglers that do not clean and oil their spinner reel from one fishing season to the next often have this problem. Either clean and oil the reel or buy a new one at the start of each angling season.

  • Know your fish and do your research before bow fishing.

Bow fishing is all about strategy and skill and it all starts way before you make it to the water. Become familiar with the fish species that you are bow hunting. For instance, trout likes highly oxygenated water where insects like to feed. They also can be found lurking around boulders and rocks in fairly shallow water. These are the types of waters you must go looking in. Also, do a bit of online research to find out where others are having bow fishing success in your area.

  • Practice your bow fishing skills regularly.

Regardless of whether you have the best equipment on the market or not, if you do not know how to use it, it will prove worthless to you. You need to practice bow fishing regularly to improve on your aim. If you can’t aim well, you will not catch many fishes and things are bound to get messy. Some anglers practice by sinking a soda bottle in the water to use as a target. Practice shooting the bottom of the bottom from various depths.

  • Use polarized sunglasses when bow fishing.

I have found that bow fishing during the day makes for a lucrative catch but the light reflecting on the water can make for poor visibility. I got some advice from a fellow angler who mentioned that wearing polarized sunglasses makes the fish in the water much more visible. He was right. Once you have started bow fishing with polarized sunglasses you will never look back.


While bow fishing for trout is absolutely doable, it is always a good idea to look into the regulations in place in your area. Also, make sure that you have the relevant fishing license or permit. While the rules vary from one state to the next, it is generally an acceptable norm to bow fish for trout. Follow the bow fishing tips above for a good next catch. Good luck!

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