How to Fish With a Crossbow

by W. P. Wentzell
Fishing by sight using a bow and arrow is an ancient practice that is just as challenging today.

Fishing by sight using a bow and arrow is an ancient practice that is just as challenging today.

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

With a few modifications to your bow and some practice in the river, your crossbow can reel in the catch. Crossbow fishing is a form of bow fishing that relies on barbed, bolt-tensioned arrows called "bolts" to snare fish from the water. As with traditional fishing, you will need to invest in a reel and some wading boots, but no bait is necessary. Crossbow fishing can be risky. It is highly recommended to invest in a line-safety system to prevent the line from snagging and the bolt snapping backward at the shooter.

Items you will need

  • Reel
  • Line
  • Barbed bolts
  • Wading boots
  • Net
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Step 1

Outfit the crossbow with a reel mount and reel. Reel mounts and reels can be purchased from most crossbow or fishing retailers. Choose the appropriate line strength based on the average weight of the species of fish to be caught. Spool the reel.

Step 2

Add an AMS line-safety system to the bow to prevent snapback. Purchase barbed fishing bolts from a crossbow retailer and attach the line. Gather the crossbow, bolts, wading boots and net, and head to the water.

Step 3

Wade into the stream, river or lake. Cock the crossbow and insert the bolt. Activate the AMS safety system by moving the sliding connector over the line near the tip of the bolt. Fire a practice shot away from any other person to test the entire fishing system.

Step 4

Retrieve the test shot and reload, engaging the AMS protection. Wade quietly through the water, watching for fish.

Step 5

Aim at an identified fish using the 10-1 rule: If a fish is 10 feet away and 1 foot under water, aim 4 inches low. Double this measure accordingly for an additional 10 feet away or 1 foot deep. So, 20 feet away and 1 foot deep, or 10 feet and away and 2 feet deep would require 8 inches of aiming compensation. The 10-1 rule accounts for the refraction of light in water, which makes the fish appear closer to the surface than it actually is.

Step 6

Fire the arrow at the fish. If it's hit and caught, reel the fish in, and use the net to remove it from the water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Optionally, you can fish with the aid of a boat, as long as the fish are not too deep within the water. It is best to aim for fish that 10 feet deep or less. The bolt loses velocity quickly after it hits the water.
  • Prior to fishing, always check with the department of parks and wildlife in your state to confirm the legality of crossbow fishing in local lakes, rivers and estuaries. Many states have laws regulating types of game that can be hunted or fished with a crossbow.

About the Author

William Paul Wentzell is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, holding bachelor's degrees in English and photojournalism. His work has been published in the New York Times, Deseret News, The Victoria Advocate and The Daily Texan.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images