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Bradley Britt, a Chattanooga fireman, shoots at a gar while out on Chickamauga Lake with his father Richard Britt. Gar are common game for bowfishermen, who also shoot for carp and catfish.
some text Bradley Britt stands with his girlfriend Ashley Dill and some carp they shot while bowfishing.

Things to Know

Bowfishing has a few important rules that separate it from rod-and-reel fishing.

»No bowfishing allowed for game fish, i.e. bass, crappie, etc.

»Same rules about dumping fish apply.

»Anglers age 13 and older require a fishing license.

» Same catfish regulations apply as with rod and reel.

» Other states may vary their rules for bowfishing. Always read up before a trip.

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Catch and release concerns

Fishermen who practice catch and release may be wary of bowfishing because of its “permanent” nature. Britt says he had his own concerns initially as well.

However, bowfishing for carp benefits lakes and rivers by removing an invasive species that bullies our local bass population. And grass carp can grow to more than 100 pounds, which ought to give you a great fish story. Removing carp from our waters does nothing but benefit the health of lakes and rivers, so shoot away.

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Feeling Competitive? For the more competitive-minded fisherman, bowfishing is taking off. Lakes that routinely hold tournaments include Chickamauga Lake, Lake Guntersville, Cheatham Lake and Nickajack Lake. For more detailed tournament info, check out the Tennessee Bowfishing Club online: facebook.com/TennesseeBowfishingClub.

The appeal of a warm evening fishing on the river is easy to understand, but what if you want something a little more visceral? Something that gives you the thrill of the hunt?

For some, the time in between bites when fishing with a traditional rod and reel is the perfect opportunity to settle down and relax. But local firefighter Bradley Britt says he wants to catch fish, so the lack of downtime with bowfishing is a big plus for him.

With a boat, a spotlight, a hunting bow and a reel, anyone can bowfish.

Britt has been bowfishing for a decade. While the concept was totally foreign to him initially, what he saw on that first trip changed his life.

In the cool peak of night, gar, catfish and carp all rise near the surface, looking for their next meal.

Bowfishing during the day is possible but you'll have your best luck after the sun has gone down.

"I remember thinking 'This is crazy. These fish are just out here, ready to go.' I never thought those fish were there at night in the shallows," says Britt.

And being able to see the fish you're after makes all the difference, he says.

"You're so much more active. You're seeking with your eyes, and you're in total control of whether you get the fish in your boat or not. You either hit it, or you don't," says Britt.

If you're interested in giving it a go, don't worry about fancy gear. Slapping a bowfishing reel on any old hunting bow will do the trick. Even standard aluminum arrows work, Britt says. The sport can be as low- or high-maintenance as you want.

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