Is Bowfishing Legal In Illinois? Important Regulations And Laws You Should Know

Many people ask me – “Is bowfishing legal in Illinois?”

There are certain rules that apply when it comes to bowfishing and these vary from one state to another. In Illinois, for instance, there are some regulations that impact bowfishing, which is why it is important to keep on top of it before you go ahead and start fishing.

With these things in mind, let’s have a look at these Illinois bowfishing regulations every angler needs to know. Let’s get started.

Is Bowfishing Legal In Illinois? Illinois Bowfishing Laws

In Illinois, it is legal to catch aquatic animals through bowfishing. However, there are legal means to do this with the use of a bow and arrow, pitchfork, spear, underwater spear gun, and so on.

However, to be able to legally do bowfishing in Illinois, you need to obtain a sport fishing license valid in the state. This should cover all aquatic life, yet the marine animals caught are not allowed to be bartered or sold.

Moreover, it is not legal in Illinois to discharge any device such as a bow and arrow or a gun from public highways or roads in the state.

It is also stated that there are certain species that may be legally caught through bowfishing. These include reptile, amphibian, and fish species that are listed below:

1. Petromyzontiformes such as the Sea lamprey

2. Lepisosteiformes including Spotted gar, Shortnose gar, Longnose gar, and the Alligator gar

3. Amiiformes such as the Bowfin

4. Clupeiformes such as the Gizzard shad

5. Cypriniformes such as the Common carp, Silver carp, Goldfish, Bighead carp, and Black carp

6. Cobitidae such as the Anguillicaudatus, Oriental weatherfish

7. Catostomidae such as the Highfin carpsucker, Quillback carpsucker, River carpsucker, White sucker, Smallmouth buffalo, Blue sucker, Bigmouth buffalo, Spotted sucker, Black buffalo, Black redhorse, Silver redhorse, Shorthead redhorse, and Golden redhorse

8. Characiformes including the Pacu and non-native species in the Serrasalmidae family

9. Siluriformes and the Ictaluridae family native species such as the Channel catfish, Flathead catfish, Blue catfish, Yellow bullhead, Black bullhead, and Brown bullhead

10. Ictaluridae family and its non-native species such as the White catfish

11. Perciformes and the Scianidae family such as the Freshwater drum

12. Cichliformes and cichlidae family that includes the Tilapia

13. Gobbiformes and Gobiidae family including the Round goby

14. Anabantiformes and the Channidae family including the Northern snakehead

15. Anura order and Ranidae family such as the American bullfrog

16. Testudines and Chelydridae family native species such as the Common snapping turtle

The Illinois bowfishing regulations also stipulate that live possession of fish species that are not native to the state is not permitted. An exception to the rule is the Goldfish, as well as the Common carp.

Additional Illinois Bowfishing Regulations

Illinois bowfishing

It is also worth noting that there are specific water bodies in Illinois open to legal fishing methods including bowfishing. These are all public site-specific bodies of waters indicated in Section 810.45

If one is bowfishing for catfish, these fish species are only permitted to be taken in certain connected public backwaters and rivers.

Other bodies of water where bowfishing can be done legally in Illinois include:

1. Mississippi River except for:

  • Quincy Bay and Quincy Bay Waterfowl Management Area
  • Mark Twain U.S Fish and Wildlife Refuge Waters (unless with a special permit)
  • Upper Mississippi River’s Spring Lake

2. Illinois River except for:

  • Mason County’s Clear Lake (1 week before and during the duck season in the central zone)
  • Highway bridge at Route 89
  • Meredosia Lake located in Cass and Morgan Counties during the duck season
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Refuge Waters

3. Embarras River

4. Wabash River

5. Little Wabash River

6. Sangamon River

7. Kaskaskia River

8. Saline River located in Saline and Gallatin Counties

9. Cache River

10. Ohio River with the exception of:

  • Lock and Dam 52 and 53
  • Within 50 yards of any stream’s or tributary’s mouths
  • Smithland Dam

Lastly, catching Common snapping turtles by means of bowfishing is not allowed in these counties in Illinois: Franklin, Massac, Alexander, Hardin, Pope, Union, Williamson, Jackson, Saline, Gallatin, White, Perry, Randolph, Johnson, Perry, and Pulaski.

Bottom Line

We hope this answered your question, “Is bowfishing legal in Illinois?” Now, you can go ahead and plan your trip and come prepared with all the right paperwork and knowledge on where to fish and which areas to avoid according to the Illinois bowfishing laws and regulations.

Enjoy bowfishing!

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