Flying Fish Bowfishing Tournament Saturday; activities planned at Bass Pro in East Peoria

Drew Veskauf TimesNewspapers
Soon, there will be a similar scene in East Peoria to this one in Bath, Ill., when the Flying Fish Bowfishing Tournament takes place July 12 in the Illinois River.

The Asian carp problem in the central United States’ rivers is a well known issue. In the Illinois River, the Asian carp have settled in and made themselves comfortable.

John Hamann, rural economic development director, said there is about 9.75 tons of Asian carp in one mile of the river after studies from Southern Illinois University were conducted.

To bring awareness to the issue and show how the carp can be used as a resource, the first Flying Fish Bowfishing Tournament in the Peoria area will be held along the Illinois river from 5 a.m.-1 p.m. July 12.

“It’s an awareness for the people in this area. It’s an awareness of the abundance of the fish. That species here is an invasive species,” executive director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, Rick Swan said.

“The way we like to look at it is that it’s a resource that we have. It’s a resource that we have an abundance of.”

Teams, up to four people in one boat, can enter for $120 and the cut off is Friday.

There will be two divisions in the competition. Bow fishing teams will be able to launch at 5 a.m. and the net-fishing teams can launch at 9 a.m. into the Illinois River.

The maximum cash prize, if at least 100 boats enter the competition, will be $2,500 for first place, $2,000 for second, $1,500 for third, $1,000 for fourth and $500 for fifth place.

Swan said that in addition to the fishing part of the tournament, they also want to make it a family-fun day to help present awareness on the matter with booths organized in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot. 

The tourney will

centralize in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot toward the end of Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill. 

There will be four chefs preparing Asian carp for people to try. Chefs from Uncle Buck’s, Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino, Schafer Fisheries and Phillipe Rarola from Louisiana will partner with Two25 and Carter’s Fish Market.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will also be present on the water with enforcement patrols. They will also have a display on land with educational information, a fish biologist and an 82-pound taxidermied carp that was caught in the Illinois River, the largest known yet.

Because this is such a major issue, the U.S. Congress has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to place electrical barricades in key locations in the Chicago area to protect the Great Lakes from the Asian Carp from entering.

This would be a way of keeping the carp out of the Great Lakes but it does not aid in population control within the rivers, Hamann said.

Hamann said the Corps of Engineers were given $18 billion over a 25 year period to construct these barriers.

“We think we have a better plan, and that’s to harvest them. Because all the electric fence is doing is stopping them, not controlling the population,” Hamann said.

Actions have been set in motion to bring a processing plant to the Peoria area to help harvest the Asian Carp to use as a resource. The processing plant used right now by most in the area is in Thomson, about 121 miles from Peoria according to Google Maps, and is owned by Schafer Fisheries.

The carp caught in the Bowfishing Tournament will be hauled to Schafer Fisheries.

Hamann and Swan said that a plant closer to the Peoria area will aid in getting the fish processed without spoiling.

“We’re in the perfect spot. They reproduce here four times a year in this area,” Hamann said.

“What we don’t have is a viable processing plant to take them to. It’s important to take them to the plant as quickly as possible.”

As of now, Swan said there have been 12 companies, mostly from Asia, looking to build a location in the Peoria area.

The plant would aim to use 100 percent of the carp so that there will be no waste, Hamann said.

“Every time we turn around there’s a new use that we never would have thought of,” Hamann said.

After the tournament, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance inaugural Peoria preservation and conservation dinner will be at 6 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center. Cost is $100 a person and there are also opportunities to sponsor a table. 

For more information and to RSVP, call Sharon Williams at 264-1119.