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Asian silver carp jump out of the Illinois River when startled by a boat’s motor. Photo by Chris Young.

Flying Fish Festival takes aim at invasive Asian carp

January 20, 2014 at 08:33 AM

Peoria Journal Star

EAST PEORIA — In an effort to turn a problem into an asset, the first annual Flying Fish Festival and Bowfishing Tournament has been added to the central Illinois summer calendar.

The invasive Asian carp will be at the center of activities planned for July 11-12 with some of the top bowhunters in the country expected to shoot as many Asian carp as they can while competing for cash prizes.

The program features Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria as a lead partner for an event with backers on both sides of the river.

Researchers at Southern Illinois University estimated in 2012 that the Asian carp constituted 60 percent of all aquatic life in the Illinois River.

A major emphasis has been placed on blocking the interloper's entry to the Great Lakes, where it could overrun the recreational fishing industry there.

"This festival is about preservation and conservation on the Illinois River," said Mike Everett, representing the Union Sportsmen's Alliance, at a news conference Friday at the Bass Pro Shops store.

"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. We'll shoot a bunch of them and I intend to eat a bunch of them."

The event will be family friendly, featuring activities up and down the river on both banks, Everett said of activities July 12.

"People will get to see professional bowhunters at work but there will be other attractions and activities down on the riverfront while the tournament is going on," he said.

"This will also be a regional event. They will be launching boats from several locations along the river."

The tournament starts early — at 5 a.m. Saturday — with a weigh-in scheduled at 2 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops to determine who shot the most fish.

Along with the bowhunting, chefs will prepare carp dishes at stands along the river, said Everett, adding that a dinner — with standard fare on the menu — will be open to the public at the Peoria Civic Center on Saturday evening.

A portion of proceeds from the "conservation dinner" will go toward restoring the Labor Temple, 400 NE Jefferson Ave., he said.

East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus, brandishing a crossbow at the podium, expressed appreciation to the many partners involved in staging the festival. "We're going to get rid of a few Asian carp," he said.

Fish that's not consumed by hungry festivalgoers will be transported to a processing plant, said John Hamann, rural economic director for Peoria County.

"We're looking for ways to keep this fish in check, and commercial use of this fish is one of those," he said.

he tournament isn't limited to professional bowhunters, said the Labor Temple's Sharon Williams, one of the organizers of the event.

"The entry fee is $120 per boat up to four anglers. Registration starts March 1," she said.

For more information, call Williams at 674-9715.

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow his blog, Minding Business, on and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter.

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