There is one species that has literally invaded the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. One community has decided to take a stand.
The community of Bath in Mason County has declared war on the flying Asian Silver Carp. The 13th annual Original Redneck Carp Fishing Tournament will be held this weekend on the Illinois River to combat the large population of Asian carp filling midwestern rivers and waterways.
According to a website made to help with eradicating and preventing the spread of asian carp, aptly called asiancarp.us, these fish were originally imported from Southeast Asia to the southern United States to help aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities keep retention ponds clean. Flooding and accidental releases allowed carp to escape into the Mississippi River system and migrate into the Missouri and Illinois rivers. Therefore, carp swim freely between them.
Betty DeFord is one of the founders of the tournament. As a recennt guest of WLDS’ AM Conversation , she offered an in-depth explanation for this flying Asian Silver Carp crusade. DeFord gives this Friday and Saturday’s fishing schedule.
“We run four heats, two each day: noon to 2 and 4 to 6. I do a free kids fishing tournament from 3-5 on Thursday. Friday and Saturday, our gates at the riverfront are opened at 8 a.m. All net proceeds are donated to Central Illinois Homeless Veterans, whom I have been fundraising for during this tournament for the last five years.”
DeFord details the origins of the Original Redneck Carp fishing tournament and its evolution.
“What brought the whole thing on was to get rid of these stinky slimy fish that jump in your boat and wreak havoc. We couldn’t take our grandchildren out for boat rides in the summer. Bath is a small community, and that’s what you have to do in the summer and it just got too dangerous. So, we concocted this little plan to get rid of these fish and take our river back. After 13 years we are still unsuccessful in that pursuit, so now we’re also going to start eating them.”
DeFord says the tournament is very fun but also a somewhat dangerous athletic spectacle.
“We use handheld dip nets, and they jump in your boat. We dress in costumes to make it a fun thing, but I also always tell people to bring protective gear. We’ve got them in helmets and shoulder pads; these things are vicious. It seems like once you catch one its family members come in to save their buddy, and it can get really hectic out there so you’ve really got to stay vigilant and watchful.”
DeFord, Bath, and the tournament welcome spectators and fishers from all over the world.
“I have talked to people in several different states about these things. We have marine biologists that were here last year that are returning this year, and they’ll be taking some of the carp and dissecting them to learn about their mating and growth patterns. This tournament has brought awareness out to a lot of different people from all over. We are hosting people from Sweden this year. We’ve had people from Canada who don’t want them up in their waters either. Even Lake Erie up by Ohio have found traces of grass carp. There are four species of invasive carp: the silver carp are the ones that fly up at you jumping out of the water, but all four species have invaded upon midwestern rivers and waterways.”
Photo Credit: Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program