Is Bowfishing Legal?
Generally speaking, bowfishing is legal in all 50 states.
However, bowfishing rules and regulations vary state by state.
To help you navigate the legality of bowfishing in each state – we’ve created the Fin-Finder Wrecking Guide: State-by-State Bowfishing Guide to get you on the water and wreckin’ fish!
General Bowfishing Guidelines
Most states allow bowfishing enthusiasts to only target invasive, non-game, or non-native fish.
Despite game fish typically being off-limits to bowfishing, there are various native or game fish species you can target depending on the state you’re bowfishing in.
Whether you’re looking to get into bow fishing in your home state or travel to do a bit of bowfishing – our state-by-state bowfishing guide should help you navigate the bowfishing rules and regulations.
The southeastern United States has an abundance of awesome fishing waters, and Alabama is no exception with both fresh and saltwater opportunities. Whether you want to wreck invasive fish, or native fish out in the gulf, whatever you want to bow fish for “Alabama has it!”
Bowfishing in Alabama:https://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing
Bowfishing Association Records for Alabama:https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-2/
The vast and wild state of Alaska doesn’t usually inspire thoughts of bowfishing as one of its popular outdoor activities. Believe it or not, it’s actually a popular activity with Northern Pike being the most chased species of fish. The pike are considered invasive in the Southcentral part of the state so the opportunities are there should you decide to buy a plane ticket to cross bowfishing in Alaska off of your bowfishing bucket list.
Bowfishing in Alaska: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Alaska: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/northern-pike/
With a variety of lakes and rivers, bowfishing is a very popular sport in Arizona. If you’re looking to hit the waters of Arizona – you’ll typically be targeting species of carp with some catfish mixed in.
Bowfishing in Arizona: https://www.azgfd.com/
Bowfishing Association Records for Arizona: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-41/
Sandwiched between Louisiana and Missouri, Arkansas has put up a lot of bow fishing harvests in the record books. From carp to gar, this southern state takes its bowfishing seriously with many experienced bow fishers out there happy to share their knowledge and experience.
Bowfishing in Arkansas: https://www.agfc.com/en/
Bowfishing Association Records for Arkansas: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp/
When you think about California you might think of fun in the sun and beautiful ocean coastlines. So much of the Golden State is comprised of mountain country with large rivers like most western states. All waters are not open to bow fishing so do check the local and state rules and regulations before you hit the water and get wreckin’.
Bowfishing in California: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing
Bowfishing Association Records for California: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/mako-shark/
Colorado is known for outdoor recreation and it doesn’t stop at bowfishing. Though it’s strongly regulated (you can’t use a crossbow) there are several species of fish bow fishers are welcome to wreck. Many locals will tell you that rules change quickly in Colorful Colorado so it’s best to check with the officials before beginning to fish a certain stretch of water.
Bowfishing in Colorado: https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Brochure/fishing.pdf
Bowfishing Association Records for Colorado: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-39/
The gateway to New England, Connecticut could certainly brag about its waterways and saltwater coastline of the Long Island Sound. Definitely more confusion than certainty about legality of bowfishing from residents, it is legal with proper equipment and licenses. Species targeted are mostly carp with some anglers heading to the salt for bluefish. As always, be sure to check the regulations before you hit the water.
Bowfishing in Connecticut: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Fishing/CT-Fishing
Bowfishing Association Records for Connecticut: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-4/
The first state certainly doesn’t come in last with opportunities for wrecking fish. Delaware is welcoming bow fishers to help rid them of invasive species like catfish, carp, and now snakeheads in their tidal and non-tidal waters. Delaware is only a short distance away for residents of PA, NJ, and MD if you’re looking for a weekend bowfishing trip.
Bowfishing in Delaware: https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/
Bowfishing Association Records for Delaware: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-42/
From the Everglades to the bountiful coast, Florida can offer almost anything to bow fishing enthusiasts. Fresh water and salt water opportunities abound in almost all areas of the state. Heck, you can even bow fish for alligators with the proper licenses and permits!
Bowfishing in Florida: https://myfwc.com/fishing/
Bowfishing Association Records for Florida: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-35/
Known mostly for its famous bass fishing waters, bow fishing is becoming increasingly popular on its many rivers. Georgia’s waters abound with carp and gar sure to fill a day with awesome bowfishing action.
Bowfishing in Georgia: https://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/angler-resources
Bowfishing Association Records for Georgia:https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-31/
As an island state, you could be hard-pressed to find a place in the US more intertwined with the water than Hawaii. Born out of the ocean, fishing in Hawaii offers a large variety of fish to chase, even with a bow. Regulations can be strict so do your research before hitting the water. While not many on the islands bow fish, the ones that do say a few days are better than working the rocky coastline for a delicious dinner.
Bowfishing in Hawaii: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/
Bowfishing Association Records for Hawaii: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/mullet/
In a state that is famous for elk, mule deer, and world-class fly fishing, Idaho also takes its bow fishing very seriously. Touting the importance for native fish by removing invasive species, it’s also a great reason to get outside in the warmer months for some exciting bowfishing action. With a variety of famous rivers and lakes, a good spot is never too far away in Idaho.
Bowfishing in Idaho: https://idfg.idaho.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Idaho: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-5/
With part of the state possessing great lakes coastline and the large Illinois river system, don’t sleep on this mid-west giant that’s usually a whitetail destination state. There is plenty to chase beneath the surface of Illinois’s waterways and in the case of the Silver Carp, you have a chance to wreck an airborne fish!
Bowfishing in Illinois: https://www.ifishillinois.org/index.html
Bowfishing Association Records for Illinois: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-6/
Indiana also owns some coastline on Lake Michigan, but the real excitement is on its creek and large river systems including the Ohio River. Like most states, carp abound and recently the first Alligator Gar was taken with bow fishing rig. This was the first Alligator Gar biologists had seen in Indiana in over 30 years!
Bowfishing in Indiana: https://www.in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/fishing/
Bowfishing Association Records for Indiana: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-7/
Welcoming bow fishers, the state of Iowa very much would like you to take all of the invasive “rough” fish you can and have fun doing it. A little research will give you a lot of spots and another great reason to head to Iowa with your bow fishing rig.
Bowfishing in Iowa: https://www.iowadnr.gov/hunting
Bowfishing Association Records for Iowa: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-8/
Believe it or not, Kansas has some of the best gar fishing in the states. This fact can get lost because most don’t think of fishing, or gar for that matter when thinking about Kansas. Still, every summer bow fishers hit the water to fill up boats with gar and so can you!
Bowfishing in Kansas: https://ksoutdoors.com/
Bowfishing Association Records for Kansas: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/longnose-gar-7/
The destination for Kentucky is the famed Lake Barkley. Finding a guide to take you out on the water for an exciting trip seems easier than ever these days. Load up your truck, buy a license, and get wreckin’!
Bowfishing in Kentucky: https://fw.ky.gov/Fish/Pages/default.aspx
Bowfishing Association Records for Kentucky: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-10/
A quick internet search will show you there is no shortage of bow fishing guides in Louisiana. Bays and marshes paired with inland waterways abound with some of the largest variety of fish to chase within a short plane or car ride.
Bowfishing in Louisiana: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Louisiana: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-11/
Bowfishing is regulated to freshwater only at this point, but the good news is there’s plenty of that in Maine. Whether you take the family on a trip or go with some friends, you can’t go wrong with a bow fishing trip to the pine tree state.
Bowfishing in Maine: https://www.maine.gov/ifw/
Bowfishing Association Records for Maine: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-38/
Pennsylvania’s coastal cousin sees hundreds of anglers head south for sting ray action on the Chesapeake Bay. Whether you’re chasing rays on the bay, gar, carp, catfish, or snakehead on the Potomac – find a guide, or take out your own boat and get in on the action.
Bowfishing in Maryland: https://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/default.aspx
Bowfishing Association Records for Maryland: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-36/
Most may not think of New England when thinking about bow fishing. The truth is they have invasive carp just like the majority of other states. Some residents don’t even know it’s legal, giving you the edge to have a fun trip in a new state.
Bowfishing in Massachusetts: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/buy-your-freshwater-fishing-license
Bowfishing Association Records for Massachusetts: https://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/gallery/fishing/2012/05/massachusetts-bowfisherman-breaks-20-year-old-record-46-pound-carp/
A storied fly-fishing state, Michigan also contains some of the best waterways to chase carp with your bow fishing rig. With a long list of species to chase, don’t hesitate to look into taking your bow fishing setup with you if you’re heading to this mid-west gem.
Bowfishing in Michigan: https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/fishing
Bowfishing Association Records for Michigan: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-12/
It should be no surprise that the land of 10,000 lakes encourages you to come and chase its still water species, and with your bow nonetheless. Study the fishing regulations as only some areas of the lakes are legal to bow fish during fishing seasons.
Bowfishing in Minnesota: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/events/event.html?id=37858
Bowfishing Association Records for Minnesota: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-13/
As with most coastal states, Mississippi has plenty to offer in the way of bowfishing opportunities. If you’re looking for a bucket list destination fishing trip though, it’s hard to beat bowfishing the Mississippi River Delta. Where the mighty river meets the Gulf of Mexico you can find some of the best bowfishing for Alligator Gar in the country if you’re looking for some extra excitement.
Bowfishing in Mississippi: https://www.mdwfp.com/
Bowfishing Association Records for Mississippi: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/alligator-gar-5/
Missouri officials consider its bow fishing more like small game hunting than fishing. With extensive instructions on their website, Missouri welcomes bow fishers from near and far.
Bowfishing in Missouri: https://mdc.mo.gov/fishing/get-started-fishing/bowfishing
Bowfishing Association Records for Missouri: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-15/
This destination state for hunters and fishers could be very surprising as to their bowfishing opportunities and culture. Locals are happy to have you come and bow fish for carp, some will beg you to do it. Montana is one of the few states though where you can chase Paddlefish. Why would you do that? Montana currently has the world record for a Paddlefish taken with a bowfishing rig which can be a great trophy as well as very good eating. If you’re making the trip out west for a big game hunt, take your bowfishing setup as well for a few extra days of enjoying what some call, the last best bowfishing state.
Bowfishing in Montana: https://fwp.mt.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Montana: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/paddlefish/
One of the only states to advertise their Paddlefish species, Nebraska shouldn’t be forgotten on your bow fishing bucket list and they’ll be happy to have you.
Bowfishing in Nebraska: http://outdoornebraska.gov/bowfishingregs/
Bowfishing Association Records for Nebraska: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-18/
Not far from the lights of the Las Vegas strip gamblers of a different kind can take a chance on some outdoor excitement. With plenty of rivers and lakes in Nevada, there are carp large enough to pull a bass boat around should you arrow one.
Bowfishing in Nevada: https://www.ndow.org/
Bowfishing Association Records for Nevada: No current record, head out there and be the person who gets it.
Over 20,000 archery licenses are sold each year in New Hampshire, and every summer more bowhunters are extending their love of bowhunting by taking it to the water. Like most states, New Hampshire allows the regulated pursuit and taking of carp and suckers.
Bowfishing in New Hampshire: https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/
Bowfishing Association Records for New Hampshire: No current record, head out there and be the person who gets it.
Bowfishing is alive and well in the garden state. With plenty of fresh water to chase fish, and plenty of guides who are willing to put you on them, don’t overlook New Jersey if you’re looking for a good weekend of bowfishing fun.
Bowfishing in New Jersey: https://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/index.htm
Bowfishing Association Records for New Jersey: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-32/
Like spearfishing, bowfishing in New Mexico is legal and welcome in its lakes and reservoirs. You won’t have to look far on the state agency’s site to find guidance about where you can go and what you can take. Make New Mexico a bow fishing destination and enjoy all that the state has to offer.
Bowfishing in New Mexico: https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/
Bowfishing Association Records for New Mexico: No current record, head out there and be the person who gets it.
The state of New York has some of the best, and most unique bow fishing opportunities on the east coast. Mountain streams, salt water, and the coveted Lake Champlain straddling the New York/Vermont border boasting 11 species to chase!
Bowfishing in New York: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7917.html
Bowfishing Association Records for New York: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-19/
Another freshwater and saltwater fishing destination, you can double your target species in North Carolina. North Carolina is also a state where you can take a catfish with your bow fishing rig.
Bowfishing in North Carolina: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Fishing/Laws-Safety/Fishing-Regulations
Bowfishing Association Records for North Carolina: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-16/
With the state record Bigmouth Buffalo Carp just recently taken, North Dakota bowfishing is serious business. Local anglers and guides regularly bow fish, but don’t worry – there is plenty of fish to wreck!
Bowfishing in North Dakota: https://gf.nd.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for North Dakota: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/bigmouth-buffalo-12/
With an abundance of river systems, lakes, and reservoirs Ohio offers some of the best bow fishing in the US. With support from the state agency and a good fellow hunting culture, if you live in or close to Ohio – you should have a great time bow fishing Ohio.
Bowfishing Association Records for Ohio: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-20/
When the state’s tourism board is advertising bowfishing, you should go! Oklahoma has a strong culture for those wanting to hit the water with their bowfishing rig. With record carp, gar, and suckers – Oklahoma is great bowfishing within a reasonable drive, or flight, of most states.
Bowfishing in Oklahoma: https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/
Bowfishing Association Records for Oklahoma: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/bigmouth-buffalo-9/
Mostly known for big game and big river fly-fishing, bow fishing is still fairly new to Oregon. Still, they have the carp and plenty of guides who are willing to put you on them. If you’re a local, a quick internet search will put you in touch with local clubs for several tournaments throughout the year.
Bowfishing in Oregon: https://myodfw.com/fishing
Bowfishing Association Records for Oregon: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-34/
The Keystone State enjoys an abundance, and variety, of fishing waters. Pennsylvania also hosts one of the largest and oldest river systems in the eastern United States with the Susquehanna River. Home to waterfowl flyways and catfish rumored to be able to swallow someone whole, this waterway holds no end to fishing mystery and excitement.
Bowfishing in Pennsylvania: https://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/FishingRegulations/Pages/default.aspx
Bowfishing Association Records for Pennsylvania: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-22/
While the state may be small the carp in Rhode Island can be very big. Bowfishing is a legal method of take and carp fishing is enjoyed the state over. Do be sure to check regulations where you’re heading as they can change from town to town within the state.
Bowfishing in Rhode Island: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/
Bowfishing Association Records for Rhode Island: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/white-perch/
With few restrictions except for some state-managed lakes, South Carolina welcomes bowfishing enthusiasts. A historically fantastic fishing state – fresh water and saltwater species are options with plenty of bowfishing guides offering their services.
Bowfishing in South Carolina: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/devices/archery.html
Bowfishing Association Records for South Carolina: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-23/
Quiet beginnings have grown into a strong voice of support and enjoyment for bowfishing in South Dakota. Carp, paddlefish, and even a youth record Chinook Salmon all have come out of the waters of this state filled with bowfishing fun.
Bowfishing in South Dakota: https://gfp.sd.gov/
Bowfishing Association Record for South Dakota: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-33/
Tennessee residents are flocking to bow fishing. Most of the successful bow fishers have been donating their harvest to local farmers and the state welcomes those persuing non-game fish with stick and string with a free commercial license.
Bowfishing in Tennessee: https://www.tn.gov/twra/fishing.html
Bowfishing Association Records for South Carolina: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-24/
The saying, “everything’s bigger in Texas” definitely applies to bow fishing. Some of the biggest populations and biggest fish, specifically Alligator Gar, reside in the Lone Star State. There are plenty of bowfishing guides that will take you to the prehistoric-looking fish where you have the highest chance at topping the record for the fish.
Bowfishing Association Records for Texas: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-25/
With some of the best lakes for bowfishing carp in the country, Utah should be towards the top of your destination list. Utah also has a very friendly and supportive of bowfishing enthusiasts so don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow bowfishing enthusiasts for suggestions on a place to wreck.
Bowfishing in Utah: https://wildlife.utah.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Utah: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-26/
Rounding out the New England states, Vermont is home to outdoor lovers of all kinds of pursuits. The bulk of bowfishing as far as quality and quantity goes will be found in the northern part of the state on Lake Champlain. You’ll find most of your bowfishing guides there. Don’t overlook rivers and streams like the Connecticut River, they can hold some giant carp, too.
Bowfishing in Vermont: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/
Bowfishing Association Records for Vermont: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-37/
Virginia bow fishers have built a culture out of targeting “rough fish.” They also are one of the top states to target the invasive Snakehead fish. With creel limit, and rumored to be delicious, this species could be worth a day on the water.
Bowfishing in Virginia: https://dwr.virginia.gov/fishing/
Bowfishing Association Records for Virginia: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-30/
Bow fishing isn’t usually the first thing many think of when they think about the Pacific Northwest, but maybe you should consider the possibilities. Lots of water, guides, and bow fishing groups can easily be referenced for advice, and they’re all excited about bow fishing.
Bowfishing in Washington: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations
Bowfishing Association Records for Washington: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-27/
The wild and wonderful state of West Virginia is home to so many great outdoor pursuits and it doesn’t stop with bow fishing. With so many rivers and streams to choose from you’re never far from a good bowfishing spot.
Bowfishing in West Virginia: https://wvdnr.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for West Virginia: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/bighead-carp-10/
Like many other states, bow fishing is somewhat of a new pursuit in Wisconsin. Gaining popularity since the 1990s, Wisconsin bow anglers quickly saw the importance of removing invasive species from its waters and the positive economic impact it brought.
Bowfishing in Wisconsin: https://widnr.widen.net/s/xpr8qjhbc2/spearnetelectronic2223
Bowfishing Association Records for Wisconsin: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-29/
As if you needed another reason to pack up the truck and head out to Wyoming, the bowfishing is great there too. Rivers, lakes, and reservoirs abound with carp and other species legal for bowfishing in the state. There are plenty of forums and groups with quality advice and suggestions so don’t put a bowfishing trip to Wyoming off any longer.
Bowfishing in Wyoming: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/
Bowfishing Association Records for Wyoming: https://bowfishingassociation.com/state_record/common-carp-40/
Additional Bowfishing Resources:
For more bowfishing articles about equipment, tips, and tactics – make sure to check out our Fin-Finder bowfishing blog.