“Tons of fun! Tons of fish!” That has been my response when people ask me about my experience at the Redneck Fishing Tournament last weekend.
The Redneck Fishing Tournament has become an annual tradition in the small town of Bath, Illinois. In the tournament, teams compete to see who can collect the most invasive Asian carp from the Illinois River in two hours. Bucking traditional ecological sampling strategies such as fyke nets, fish are incited to jump by boats rampaging through the water and caught out of mid-air with dip nets, pool skimmers, and by hand. Hilarity ensues. Videos can be seen here and here (among many others).
Did I mention that all of this occurs in costume, often following the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol*, and with a festival featuring food vendors, live music, and other entertainment occurring next to the boat launch? We had a blast!
One thing that struck me this weekend is just how many fish were pulled from the river… and how many fish there must be that didn’t get caught. On Friday, for example, participants pulled an astounding 6500 fish from the water! Yet, circling a few boats through the water and netting the fish that jump toward the boat is not a particularly efficient method of fishing. There must be A LOT of Asian carp in that river- with huge environmental implications.
One encouraging note, however, is the overwhelming popularity of the Redneck Fishing Tournament. Signs leading into Bath, Illinois indicated just 350 people reside in the small town, and there were easily three or more times that many attendees at the event. That’s a lot of people who will return home with wild stories about the tournament and (hopefully) a message about the perils of Asian carp invasion.
*We do not recommend driving a boat while intoxicated and applaud the work of the many designated drivers we met this weekend!