Few invasive species get as much attention as Asian carp, and the city of Peoria, Illinois is likely to draw more with the announcement of its first annual carp bowfishing contest. Sponsored by a number of partners like Bass Pro Shops, the Flying Fish Festival and Bowfishing Tournament is slated to take place in July.

“This festival is about preservation and conservation on the Illinois River,” Union Sportsmen’s Alliance spokesperson Mike Everett told the Journal Star. “It’s also about a boatload of fun as we try to put a serious dent in the number of flying fish over a 50-mile area of the river.”

The river Everett mentions is the Illinois, a principal tributary of the Mississippi River. When the Mississippi became populated with Asian carp in the early 1970s, it did not take long for the fish to reach the Illinois. A 2012 study by the Southern Illinois University found that more than 60 percent of all fish in the River were Asian carp. At the time, researchers recommended fishing and eating the carp in order to slow their growth.

That is an idea that Everett can agree with.

“We’ll shoot a bunch of them and I intend to eat a bunch of them,” he said, adding that any leftover fish from the tournament will be turned over to a processing plant.

The invasive fish can be highly detrimental to habitats they are introduced to, and tend to force out native fish through competition for food. The US Army Corps of Engineers recently released a report that it may take as much as $18 billion to keep carp out of the Great Lakes. If the species does enter the water system, it could spell disaster for the region’s fishing industries.

The Illinois River, however, already has a burgeoning carp population. This includes silver carp, which are notorious for their leaping abilities. Weighing as much as 100 pounds, silver carp will jump from the water when startled, and likely in large groups. Needless to say, there have been documented cases of anglers and boaters being injured following a collision with one of these fish.

Anglers have also found it difficult to catch silver carp on hook and line, instead turning to bowfishing. Since carp are invasive, there is no need to practice catch-and-release. Bowfishermen often use the fish’s leaping ability to their advantage, as they make for fun and challenging targets when in the air.

Peoria mayor Dave Mingus applauded the upcoming tournament, as did other city officials. Organizers say that tournament is open to everyone as long as they bring their own equipment, and the winner will be decided by the final weight of total fish caught. Registration will cost $120 per boat for up to four anglers.

Image courtesy US Geological Survey

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