Do You Require a Bow License to Bowfish in NY? Everything You Need to Know

Do You Need a Bow License to Bowfish in NY?

Bowfishing is a thrilling and unique sport that combines the skills of archery with fishing. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast in New York, you might be wondering whether you need a bow license to participate in this exciting activity. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the regulations surrounding bowfishing in NY and help clarify any confusion.

Understanding the Basics of Bowfishing

Bowfishing involves using specialized equipment such as bows and arrows designed specifically for fishing purposes. Anglers target fish swimming near the surface or in shallow waters, aiming to impale them with their arrow tips instead of using traditional fishing methods like nets or rods.

New York State Fishing Regulations

In order to ensure sustainable fisheries and protect natural resources, New York has established regulations governing various types of fishing activities within its boundaries. These rules apply not only to traditional angling but also extend to bowfishing.


  • If you plan on bowfishing in freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, or streams within NY state borders without participating in other forms of angling simultaneously, you do not need a separate bow license. A regular New York State fishing license will suffice.
  • However, it’s important to note that strict guidelines exist regarding species-specific harvest limits. Always refer to the official Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) guidebook or website for up-to-date information regarding open seasons, catch limits, size restrictions, and other relevant details.


  • If your interest lies primarily in saltwater bowfishing along coastal areas within NY jurisdictional waters (up to three miles from the shoreline), a bow license is not required. You can utilize your regular marine fishing permit for this purpose.
  • Similar to freshwater regulations, it’s essential to stay informed about specific restrictions and guidelines concerning target species, seasons, catch limits, and other relevant information. The DEC website will provide you with the most accurate and current details.

Special Regulations and Considerations

Bowfishing Equipment:

  • New York State law mandates that arrows used for bowfishing must be equipped with barbed points or have a line attached to retrieve fish caught during the sport. This ensures safe retrieval of arrow-hit fish.
  • The use of crossbows for bowfishing in NY is prohibited; only traditional bows are allowed.

Fish Identification:

  • Before embarking on a bowfishing expedition, familiarize yourself with local fish species found in New York waters. Accidental targeting of protected or non-game species can result in fines or penalties.
  • If uncertain about identifying certain species underwater, consider taking an online course or attending workshops offered by conservation organizations to enhance your knowledge and skills.

The Bottom Line: Bow Licensing Requirements in NY

To summarize, if you want to engage specifically in bowfishing activities within New York state boundaries without simultaneous rod-and-reel angling:

  • No separate bow license is needed for freshwater bodies; a regular fishing license suffices along with adherence to all applicable rules regarding targeted species and their regulations.
  • No separate bow license is required for saltwater coastal areas up to three miles from the shoreline; instead, a standard marine fishing permit should be obtained, while still following species-specific guidelines and limitations.

Remember to stay up-to-date with the latest regulations and check the official DEC resources for any changes or updates before embarking on your bowfishing adventure. With proper knowledge and adherence to rules, you can enjoy this thrilling sport responsibly while appreciating New York’s abundant natural beauty.