Competitors in an upcoming carp fishing tournament won’t have to abide by normal catch-and-release rules.
The inaugural Carp-A-Thon, will try to bring local fishermen together in a competitive format to take the intrusive species out of southern Illinois waterways. The tournament will also try to raise public awareness of the damages Asian carp can do to area creeks, rivers, lakes and ponds.
The event is hosted by Saint Andrew School in Murphysboro, the SIU chapter of the American Fisheries Society and the Bowfishing Association of Southern Illinois.
Asian carp were originally introduced to the Midwest in an effort to help clean algae out of private ponds. Major flooding throughout the 1970’s and 80’s allowed them to spread into the Mississippi River, and now they are common throughout the Great Lakes.
Asian carp are a genuine nuisance, both to humans and the species in competition with the carp for habitat, said Jim Garvey, director of the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIU.
“The carp feed on similar food sources as other species, we have anecdotal evidence that certain species of fish have become less abundant,” Garvey said. “Silver carp are jumpers. They hear a boat and jump out of the water, it’s a real hazard to boaters.”
Garvey said the fish can weigh between 10 and 30 pounds, and jump so easily and in such large numbers that when researchers need to study the species, one technique for catching them is to simply allow them to jump into a boat.
Researchers at SIU estimate more than 16 percent of the fish population in southern Illinois waterways are Asian carp, Garvey said.
Garvey said the Carp-A-Thon is a major positive for fishing in the area, and while he doesn’t expect the number of pests pulled out of the waters to make a major impact, the event will increase awareness about the damages Asian carp can do, and make competitors feels as if they helped with the issue.
The event will run Aug. 10-11, and contestants are allowed to fish any river, creek, ditch or stream within the Big Muddy waterway or the Mississippi waterway from the mouth of the Kaskaskia River to Cairo. There is a suggested donation of $15 for adults and $5 for children less than 16-years old.
Prizes will be awarded for total pounds of fish, biggest fish, biggest fish taken by device, net, bow or spear; biggest fish taken by bow or spear by a participant aged 13 or younger; biggest fish that jumped into a boat; and biggest fish caught in the air with a net. Prizes will be determined by the amount of donations received.
All Asian carp that are caught in the Carp-A-Thon will be taken to Leady’s Feed Store in Murphysboro to be used for fertilizer.
John Leady, owner of Leady’s, said he originally planned to grind the carcasses up for feed, but decided to use them for fertilizer because it was the easier option.
Any legal methods of fishing are allowed, including bow, line and net, gig, pole and spear, said Eric Giles, president of the Bowfishing Association of Southern Illinois in a press release.
While the Carp-A-Thon is an event for entertainment purposes, Garvey said he hopes participants keeps potential dangers in mind, not only in the tournament but anytime they are on the water.
“There have been reports of people on jet skis getting smacked in the face and knocked off, people have had their jaw broken. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed,” he said. “It will be a freak accident, but one life is too many.”