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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Debating bowfishing for gar, bass

August 26, 2009 at 09:16 PM

Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times and Ed Devries of the Bowfishing Association of Illinois waged a brief, fiery debate today over the prospect of bowfishing for bass in Illinois.

The debate started when Bowman wrote a blog about bowfishing for native fish. Click here to read the blog. In it, Bowman noted that Bill Meyer of the Gar Anglers Sportsmans Society wants to stop bowfishing for all native species, an idea Bowman seemed to favor, as he wrote:

“I like the distinction Meyer makes. It would keep plenty of invasive species, which are numerous, open to bowfishing and similar means of pursuit, but yet respects our native species.”

Devries was not so favorable. He posted a comment on one of Bowman’s blogs that has drawn widespread attention:

“Why dont we bowfish for bass or other native fish? I dont know. You tell me. If I can harvest a bass by hook and line and legally keep my limit these fish will be removed from the waters. Why cant one take these fish with a bow using the same limit? It still results in a limit of fish harvested from the water either way. If I didnt bowfish and legally took my limit it would be OK, but I cant take the same legal limit using a bow. Same result, just different gear. So, why?”

Not surprisingly, that created quite a ruckus. And the Department of Natural Resources quickly issued a verdict on the subject, telling Bowman:

“The IDNR believes that bowfishing for sportfish should not be allowed. We encourage catch and release in most instances to protect the resource. This management technique, although appropriate in some instances, could not be sustained with other demands on the fishery.”

Click here to read the rest of Bowman’s entry on this subject.

The upshot of all this is that bass won’t be added to the list of fish legal for bowfishing in Illinois any time soon. But the future of gar and other “native” fish might not be so certain.

Both sides make points on the subject. As Devries noted in a mass e-mail against the native species distinction:

“There is no need for protecting gar as their numbers are as strong now as ever and fisheries biologists have told me many times that bowfishing has no impact on gar or other native fish populations. Plus the DNR keeps track of fish populations and would surely impose limits on fish harvested by any means if their numbers were seen to decrease.

On the other side of the debate are Meyer of GASS and Chuck Meyer of the Bowfin Anglers Group, who offered this letter that started the debate.

The objective of the IDNR Division of Fisheries is clear.

The mission of the Illinois Division of Fisheries is to demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.

And yet, one of the practices of the Division undermines this mission. Throughout the official Fishing Regulations a distinction is made between port fish (such as bass, walleye, and crappie) and other species (including gar, bowfin, and suckers). There is absolutely no scientifically-based reason for such a distinction. There is no reason why gar should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing and not largemouth bass. Similarly, there is no reason why redhorse suckers are allowed to be snagged with no limit and not walleye.

There is a clearer, more scientifically-based division between fish species. In one group should be the native species including but not limited to bass, walleye, crappie, gar, bowfin, and suckers. The other group should be the non-native or invasive species including gobies, ruffe, and common, bighead, and silver carp. The native species should be regulated as sport fish are now and the non-native species should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing, snagging, or commercial methods.

We would like to encourage the Division of Fisheries to make this change to better demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.

Devries also responded to this letter by writing:

“All this amounts to is a so called outdoor sporting group trying to stop another group from legally harvesting a species they think should ONLY be caught by hook and line. And that my friends is anti hunting. The same type of anti hunting PETA wants to impose on all outdoorsmen. In these days of attacks on the hunting/fishing sports, outdoor groups need to support one another, not attack for selfish reasons.”

“Make no mistake about it everyone, these are anti hunting/fishing actions taken by a selfish group who simply dont like the fact we can legally harvest gar by bow and arrow. We cant give the hard core anti groups any help, and those who do or support those who do should be ashamed and have no business in the general hunting/fishing community in my opinion. The BAI will be reporting all actions supporting anti bowfishing to the US Sportsmans Alliance and to the Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resourses and ask their help fighting these anti bowfishing agendas.”

We’ll no doubt have more on this issue in the future.



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