Bowfishing for Carp and Gar

Bowfishing is an action-packed way of being out on the water while still getting to reel in some pretty big fish. It’s one of our favorite things to do when the weather is nice! Just like fishing with a rod and reel, bowfishing comes with it’s own set of species that are highly sought-after. Let’s talk about Carp and Gar.

Carp are everywhere including lakes, streams, and even drainage ditches. They may not be the best eating fish, but their abundance is why they are the most popular fish for bowfishing.

The best time to find carp is in the spring when water temperatures are in the mid 60s. Usually around 64 degrees is when carp tend to hang out in shallow waters.

Common Carp
Originally found in the Danube River in Europe over 2000 years ago, the Common Carp are ranked 3rd for the most frequently introduced species worldwide. Their ability to out compete native fish stocks, interbreed, and their tolerance to a variety of weather conditions has helped them gain this rank. 

When given space, they can grow as large as 94 lbs in some instances. They are tolerant of most conditions but prefer large bodies of slow or standing water and soft, vegetative sediments. They are a schooling fish and prefer to be in groups of 5 or more. 

Average Size: 8-10 lbs

Interesting Fact: A typical adult female can lay 300,000 eggs per spawn...and they can spawn multiple times per season!!

Grass Carp
Grass carp prefer areas that have a high rate of flow as well as generous foliage. As their name suggests, you can generally find grass carp along the shorelines within the aquatic weeds in the southeastern states. 

To easily identify a grass carp just look for their brown-to-yellow color with a white belly.

Average Size: 55 lbs

Interesting Fact: The grass carp is one of the largest members of the minnow family.

Silver Carp
Typically known as “flying carp”, the silver carp make bowfishing an interesting endeavor due to their instinct to jump as high as 10 feet when startled. These flying carp can be found among the rivers of Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri.

Beware! People have actually been injured by surprise encounters with silver carp due to their tendency to jump out of the water.

Average Size: 30-40 lbs

Interesting Fact: A young man in Illinois was hit in the face by a silver carp that jumped in the air while he was tubing. The man suffered many broken bones in his face and had to undergo surgery.

Bighead Carp
Similar to the grass carp, bighead carp are herbivores and thrive among the foliage. However, you don’t have to worry about bighead carp jumping out of the water every time they’re startled. The big ones weigh in as big as 88 lbs! The Bighead Carp are some of the most invasive fish who have been banned by countries such as Canada to be sold or imported alive. 

Average Size: 30-40 lbs

Interesting Fact: Bighead carp were imported from China to the United States to remove excess or undesirable plankton to improve water quality in sewage treatment plants. 

Marked by their long mouth and many sharp teeth, gar are undeniable when you reel one in. The tricky part about bagging a gar is their incredibly tough scales. A gar’s scales literally act as body armor. Because of this, you will need to gear up with the sharpest tips you can find.

Shortnose and Spotted Gar
The main difference separating the shortnose and spotted gar from the gigantic alligator gar is the shortnose and spotted gar lack the upper jaw. Additionally, shortnose and spotted gar are typically smaller fish with 3 feet being at the larger end of the spectrum.

Average Size: 4-6 lbs

Interesting Fact: Their armor-like body is made up of several interlocking rows of rhomboidal scales

Alligator Gar
It is not uncommon to reel in an 8 foot, 150 pound alligator gar. Being one of the largest freshwater fish in North America, alligator gar can weigh up to almost 300 pounds and reach lengths of 10 feet. Their upper jaw has a double row of teeth and their scales are just as tough. You will undoubtedly
need the sharpest points and stoutest equipment when going after these monsters.

Average Size: Weight can vary, but the current record is 327 lbs

Interesting Fact: The average female Alligator Gar spawns about 150,000 eggs. These eggs are extremely poisonous to humans!


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