DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: The hot spots

Missouri’s top five destinations for bowfishing

Bowfishers are out for a good time. We love archery and we love fishing. Having an outdoor opportunity that combines these two sports into one is so gratifying we can hardly believe it exists.

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Submitted photo

Josh Schnell of Rocheport, Mo., shows off a small gar he arrowed while bowfishing.

But bowfishing is very real and is rapidly growing in popularity. Missouri is a great bowfishing state.

Aside from the obvious fun of bowfishing, the sport accomplishes a number of other things, including the reduction of invasive species of fish and putting food on the table.

“Bowfishing is a popular method for taking many nongame fish, and can be a highly effective way to harvest some nongame fish that can be difficult to catch otherwise,” said Andrew Branson, a Fisheries Programs Specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Rough fish, otherwise known as trash fish, have their place. They often remove bottom debris and unwanted aquatic vegetation. A carp or gar here or there isn’t going to do too much damage to a fishery. However, when the population of rough fish becomes significantly too high, the sport fish population suffers. Asian Carp are completely undesirable and all need to be removed from our waters. Bowfishers are doing their part.

The following list of places to bowfish is meant to highlight exceptional fisheries, while showcasing diversity across our land. You can bowfish all across Missouri, and I’m sure the waters you feel were overlooked in this article are incredible destinations. Here are five top bowfishing destinations in the Show-Me State.

  1. Lake of the Ozarks — The greatest play lake of the Midwest is often overlooked as a true sporting paradise. Bowfishing is another incredible Lake of the Ozarks action-packed outdoor opportunity. The back of coves where creeks are flowing in can be productive areas for locating rough fish.
  2. Mississippi River — The entire Missouri section of the Mississippi River is prime bowfishing territory. Safety must be encouraged on this mega-river. Be sure to bowfish from a boat big enough to tackle the Mississippi. Close to shore around dikes and docks are places to look for fish.
  3. Table Rock Lake — Crystal-clear water can pay off big with a multitude of rough fish swimming in this reservoir. Table Rock has to be in the argument of the most scenic waters in Missouri, so any time one can enjoy a favorite past time there, like shooting fish, then all the better. Look for cruising fish in the clear water near shore as the shallow water warms fastest.
  4. Missouri River — The state’s namesake Missouri River is full of fish to shoot. Numerous species of carp, gar and drum make perfect targets. Stalking the banks of the Jefferson City stretch of the river is likely going to turn out to be a successful trip.
  5. Mark Twain Lake — Shallow backwater bays filled with flooded timber and rough fish abound at Mark Twain. The fact that you’re often shooting in and around timber adds a cool effect to shooting fish with a bow. The entire lake offers good bowfishing, but flood flats in the spring can be extremely productive.

See you down the trail ...

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Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at outdoors@newstribune.com

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