Illinois hunting and fishing

Greg Gebhards, left, and Kenny Barth, right, prep giant Asian carp as they get ready to cook the fish Tuesday for the Animal Planet show, “Off the Hook: Extreme Catches,” as it films a segment at Schooners in Peoria Heights. Photo by Fred Zwicky.

Animal Planet show goes fishing for adventure, Asian carp

August 01, 2012 at 06:43 AM

PEORIA HEIGHTS — Among the odd sights at Schooners on Tuesday night were a TV camera, boom microphone and a professional wrestler interviewing patrons.

The crowded bar had turned into the set of an Animal Planet show exploring extreme and creative ways to catch fish. This week’s topic: Asian carp.

Eric Young, the host of “Off the Hook: Extreme Catches,” found people here are pretty fed up with the invasive fish. But he also found people who are making a business out of them.

To that end, Young spent the past few days filming with the guys from Peoria Carp Hunters, whose YouTube videos showing them waterskiing while swiping swords, tridents and other weapons at the leaping fish became a hit.

“Through my other job as a professional wrestler, I’ve been conditioned to take a blow or two,” said Young, a burly Canadian who described himself as an outdoorsman. “But it hurt a little.”

The scene in the bar was followed by an Asian carp fish fry in back, where local fishermen demonstrated for the camera how little edible meat can come off the fish.

Illinois hunting and fishing
Outdoorsman and professional wrestler Eric Young, right, laughs as he brings his Animal Planet show, “Off the Hook: Extreme Catches,” to the Peoria area to film an episode highlighting sport fishing and the battle against Asian carp in the Illinois River.

The show, which premiered Monday night on Discovery Channel but will be shown on Animal Planet at 8 p.m. Sundays, aims to show a lighter side of the extreme fishing. But its producers hope that episodes like the one being filmed Tuesday can highlight major problems like Asian carp.

“We’ve never seen anything like what’s going on in the river,” said the show’s executive producer, Greg Henry. He said the episode featuring Schooners and the Peoria Carp Hunters should air sometime in the fall.

Asian carp have become more of a nuisance throughout the Midwest in recent years. Their roots here can be traced back to a Mississippi River flood in 1993, when the fish escaped from small ponds and spread.

While they’ve been present in various waterways throughout the U.S. for a number of years including the Illinois River, lawmakers and environmentalists have been recently trying to find a way to keep them out of the Great Lakes.

Their most notable quality is their instinct to jump out of the water when startled. That has made boating at least somewhat hazardous, said Tim Presley, owner of Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville.

He said the carp are only becoming more prevalent in recent years. But he’s hopeful that some kind of good can come out of their presence.

“There could be, and we pray for that,” Presley said.

John Hageman can be reached at 686-3194 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter @jhageman_.