Complete Guide on How to Use Bowfishing Crossbow

Bowfishing, specially crossbow fishing, offers an exciting way to pursue fish although a fishing license may be needed. In bowfishing, the angler must spot the fish first and then shoot with a crossbow.

The fish can be retrieved after they are pierced using the attached line to the arrow. A lot of practice is needed for an angler to be able to adjust his shot in water with a fast-moving target. 

What to know about Crossbow fishing? 

Bowfishing with a crossbow may require you to take training courses. It may not be required in some areas but it will help you in understanding how to properly use your crossbow and arrow, crossbow fishing safety, and ethical fishing.

Besides, courses can teach you how to take care of your bow and how to properly react in different situations. 

Most decent crossbows can be adapted into bowfishing crossbows with a few modifications and specialized bolts.

However, it is important to be knowledgeable about bowfishing gear and bowfishing set up to enhance your fishing experience. Crossbows have evolved significantly over the last decades; they are now more accurate and easier to use. 

How to use Bowfishing Crossbow? 

A. Design 

You won’t be able to maximize the potential of your crossbow without knowing its parts. Various designs of bowfishing crossbows are available in the market but they do have common features. 

Bowfishing design

B. Cocking, Cocking Safety, and Draw Weight

Most bowfishing crossbows have similar features for loading and cocking the devices. Here are the basic steps and tips. 

  • Place the stirrup on the ground or the floor of your boat and clip your foot through the stirrup to ensure that it remains in position while you cock the crossbow. 
  • Once the stirrup is secured in place, grab the strings connected to each end of the curved limbs using both hands. Pulling on one string harder than the other can cause the strings to go off-center affecting the firing accuracy of your fishing crossbow. 
  • Buying cocking aids is also a good option. However, you will still have to pull both strings back until you reach the cocking mechanism even if you decide to use cocking aids.
  • To properly place the strings, wait until you hear a clicking sound. Letting go before the click could make the strings snap back abruptly and cause injuries.
  • Most crossbows have automatic safety features but manually set the safety after cocking your crossbow to ensure safety. 

The draw weight you require will be determined by the fish you target. Moreover, as per local laws research see to it if they can define draw weights under current fishing laws. A strong crossbow would be useless in a place it is not allowed to be used. 

C. Arrow

Not getting the proper arrows for your bowfishing crossbow can cause them to break. It is very frustrating and costly. Also, using the wrong arrow has a risk that it will go off your intended direction.

You can choose from fiberglass, carbon, aluminum, or carbon aluminum for the materials of your arrows. Carbon and carbon aluminum are highly recommended for beginners as they are less prone to bending and breaking compared to aluminum ones.

Manufacturer’s recommendation in terms of arrow length and weight are worth considering when making your choice. Arrow vanes and fletching determine the ability of arrows thus make sure that they are high quality, straight, and properly installed. One last thing, make sure that the nocks of the arrows you buy are specifically created for your fishing crossbow.

Learn on what are the “Different types of bowfishing arrows.”

D. Shooting the Crossbow 

  • Insert the arrow in the arrow track and make sure the arrow end is in contact with the string and that the straight fletching rest inside the groove of the crossbow.
  • Flick the crossbow off of “safe”
  • When fishing with a crossbow, always make sure you are aware of where you are pointing the device, especially when it is cocked and loaded.
  • Make sure that the surrounding area is cleared so that no one would be injured.
  • Examine your shot placement in your target and make adjustments to your sites if necessary.
  • Release the crossbow’s safety only when you are prepared to fire the arrow. You can use sights for better accuracy. Most importantly, avoid dry firing your fishing crossbow.

Dry firing your crossbow may result in string breakage or rupture of the upper limb of the device.

dry firing

Nevertheless, dry firing your crossbow may cause multiple fractures of your devices, which resulted in small pieces that break off from your bow to rogue projectiles. 

E.  Speed

The length of the power stroke plays an important role in determining the speed of the arrow that you release from the crossbow.

There are fishing crossbows with longer strokes compare to others and can shoot at speeds of 400 feet per second.

However, the weight and length of your arrow can affect its speed when in motion.

F.  Accessories

The more expensive the devices the often they fitted with high-tech scopes with adjustable features such as red dot scopes. For your convenience and make it easier for you to cock your device, it is recommended to buy fishing crossbows with cocking devices.

There are fishing crossbows that come with clip-on cranks and clamps when purchased but isn’t, that is one you should also be mindful of buying accessories for your device.

Some fishing crossbows come with dampeners on their split limbs as well as retention strings and stirrups.

If your crossbow does not have a dampener, you can buy one and add it to your unit.

You can also check a good source “Bowfishing Equipment for beginners”.


Crossbow fishing requires you to get closer to your target quietly and rely on your skills, firepower, and force. Many anglers rate crossbows as more accurate than composite bows and can work exceptionally well with telescopic sights.

Unlike bows, crossbows are perfectly designed for fishing; they offer a more dynamic and exciting fishing experience than conventional bows. Crossbow fishing for both experts and beginners. 


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