Anglers Net Thousands of Flying Asian Carp in Illinois River

The 6th annual "Redneck Fishing Tournament" brings anglers to the Illinois River to fish for invasive Asian carp with nothing but nets.

09-01-2010 // Jeff Alexander
Asian Carp

Hundreds of self-proclaimed rednecks converged on the tiny community of Bath, Ill., on an August weekend to participate in one of the world’s most bizarre sporting events: Fishing for flying Asian carp with nothing but nets.

This sixth annual Redneck Fishing Tournament attracted anglers from across the Midwest. Organizers said the 108 teams that participated caught 3,239 Asian silver carp over the course of two days.

Bath resident Betty DeFord, who started the tournament in a bid to take back her community's river from the menacing carp, said the number of silver carp in the river continues to multiply despite the best efforts of anglers.

"In one heat Friday night, they caught 1,676 silver carp," DeFord said. "That's 1,676 fish that won't spawn in the Illinois River...but we're still seeing more of these Asian carp in this river every year."

The tournament provided a glimpse of what could happen in the Great Lakes and several of the lakes' tributaries if Asian carp establish reproducing populations.

Researchers have found Asian carp in the Chicago Shipping Canal near Lake Michigan, miles beyond an electric fence that was supposed to keep the invaders from reaching the Great Lakes. Tests showed that the fish likely spent much of its life in the Great Lakes. 

If Asian carp colonize the Great Lakes, the fish would pose a major threat to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery and the region's $16 billion recreational boating industry.

National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups are urging Congress and state and federal agencies to hasten efforts to keep Asian carp from storming the Great Lakes via the Chicago Shipping Canal and the Wabash River in Indiana.

"You need to do whatever you can to keep these fish out of your lakes and rivers -- they ruin everything," DeFord said. "I’ll bet they're already in Lake Michigan."

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