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Illinois hunting and fishing

Outdoor writers spent time on the Mississippi River near Quincy last Wednesday. Included were (front) Dan Schmidt, Editor of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine; top right, Publisher of D&DH, Brad Rucks; and top left, Outdoor Channel Producer, Jared Gustafson.

Having fun with the Asian carp invasion

June 14, 2010 at 12:02 PM

I’m sure you’ve heard the recent hullabaloo about the Asian carp and how they are destroying our river systems. Talk about prolific! A female of this fish species reaches 40 pounds by age 5 and can lay 2.2 million eggs each year. The three Asian sub-species already in our rivers are the bighead, silver and black. A 96-pound bighead is now the world record shot with bow.

Though no one of authority is exactly sure how these invasive fish will affect our native species in the long-term, boat shops up and down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers regularly replace boat windshields broken by these flying fish.

We can thank our federal government for allowing them to be legally brought here to the US. Catfish growers petitioned to import them for the purpose of alleviating algae from rearing ponds. Catfish that consumed algae thereafter tasted like the green slime, and treating algae with chemicals made the catfish unmarketable. The Asian carp are solely vegetarians and eat algae in huge quantities.

The Feds were told that Asian carp could not reproduce in still water, which is true. However, the flood of 1993 pushed them out of the catfish ponds and into our river systems, starting with the Tennessee River. They now can be found in about any connecting large or small Midwest or Southern stream. It has been estimated that the Mississippi River averages 30 tons of Asian carp each mile from Quincy to the Gulf of Mexico.

You would think that the Feds would have thoroughly checked things out before allowing this invasive fish through U.S. Customs. Not! The biggest battle this fish has created is now going on near Chicago. Some have proposed that the Northeastern Illinois’ Chicago and O’Brien Locks be shut down permanently, preventing these carp from invading Lake Michigan. By doing this, says the Illinois Farm Bureau, millions of tons of essential products will have to be moved by other and more expensive means. The Illinois Corn Growers Association reports that farmers will add $500 million annually to transportation costs if the locks are closed.

Fisheries biologists worry that these carp will eventually deplete the zooplankton that feeds fingerling game fish. It’s also recognized that this Asian variety grows too fast to be a good forage source for game fish, much like the gizzard shad (as opposed to the smaller threadfin shad). It seems there is no good solution for eliminating them from our waters. So what’s next?

Unbelievably, these odd-looking fish would be excellent eating if they weren’t so full of fine bones. Their meat, unlike the English and buffalo carp, is snow white and has almost no fishy smell or flavor. I’ve filleted their boneless cuts and fried them with a cornmeal batter. You definitely would not know them from walleye! At present, they are being used commercially for fish oil supplements and fish sticks. It’s possible to grind them — bone and all — for fish patties. Adding soda crackers during grinding gives them a consistency that allows the patty to hold together while fried.

Most sportsmen have watched the television pros shoot these jumping fish with bows and arrows. Vibration of an outboard motor causes this reaction in these goosy fish. I’ve seen up to 300 in the air at one time. Sometimes it takes no more than the stroke of a canoe paddle to get them to react. And, no, you can not legally shoot them with a shotgun. If you could, though, it would be the most popular new sport on the face of the globe. Unfortunately, there would be wounded and dead boaters all up and down our rivers.

Shooting them with a bow and arrow is about as much fun as one can have with clothes on. I’ve bow shot two years at Meredosia on the Illinois River and on the Mississippi River near Quincy and have yet to see another fish archer. It’s more popular near Peoria and Peru on the Illinois. Outfitters are getting up to $350 per person for four hours of shooting (includes video of the experience).

The best time to shoot these carp is during July and August when the water is warm and in a lower pool. It’s guaranteed that you will be hit by these fish, so wearing a helmet is a good idea. They are slimy and bleed like crazy. I spray my boat down with a bleach and soap mix, allow it to sit overnight, and then power wash it the following day. Believe me, it’s worth the trouble!

Ultimately, these fish will run their course as does everything in life. Any means of mass destroying them could only hurt other species or create environmental concerns. The best case scenario is for our government to help with finding a way to utilize this unwanted resource. Ironically, starving third-world humans would be thrilled to have this food source.

Who knows…maybe these fish could be used to replace the expensive and dangerous fertilizers we now use.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Another fine example of our government’s genius…and their going to run our healthcare?!  God help us.  Can you bowhunt these things anywhere or are there restrictions?  Is it best to have two boats, the trailing boat carrying the bowfisher and the lead boat stirring up the water causing the fish to jump?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 08:52 AM

Shotgun71 - One boat works fine. Most of the shooting is off the back, but sometimes they jump good on the sides. About 7-8 miles an hour in 3-5 feet of water is the best speed and depth to jump them. Muzzy sells a great fish-shooting package for a bow. It includes a stainless steel reel (much better than the Zebco 808), a reel holder that fits in the stablizer hole, heavy line, an arrow, and a rest. You need a fishing license, not a hunting license, to be legal. Do it and you’ll be hooked!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 01:36 PM

Awesome!  Thanks for the info luvofthehunt!  Gonna try it in July when I get back home.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 02:09 PM

Hey, can’t I use my regular drop-away rest for this?  I notice the Muzzy Kit comes with a “fish hook rest”.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 02:16 PM

I have used a regular drop away rest and a muzzy bowfishing arrow.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 02:29 PM

Same thing happening in Arizona with the tilapia. They are over-running the bluegill in most of the desert lakes and contrary to popular belief, they don’t taste very good.Heard stories about the Oscars in the inter-coastal waterways in south Florida as well.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 06:29 PM

What if we make it legal for steel shot only???  Must be size 7.5 or smaller…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/17 at 08:07 AM

Shotgun71: The problem with a drop-away is shooting Asians is too fast-paced, and the arrow would keep wanting to jump off the rest with every quick action. The Muzzy rest is good, but good old plumber’s puddy formed into a pocket works best. Of course, this ruins the bow for any other shooting.
Starbux: The problem is not the shot being steel or lead…the problem is other boaters getting hit with any type of shot. Can you imagine how much damage would be done with the shooters drinking beer and flinging lead? Not good…but it would be fun.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/17 at 06:05 PM

Well, we had a blast shooting the carp last weekend!  I bought the AMS Retriever Pro and a Muzzy arrow.  It went well though I didn’t even come close to hitting everything I shot at.  BTW, the drop away arrow rest worked fine, no problems.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/21 at 03:49 PM

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