Hunters hurled arrows at the flying fish in the Illinois River Saturday and the cooks prepared the skiddish jumpers for people to try at the first Flying Fish Bowfishing Tournament.
Bass Pro Shop’s north end of the parking lot was the hub of the action. Multiple booths were set up for kids entertainment and to bring awareness to the Asian carp issue that has been developing in the United States’ river systems.
Chefs from Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino, Carter’s Fish Market from Springfield and Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill Restaurant were preparing a variety of ways to cook Asian carp for attendees to sample.
“We’re very, very happy with the attendance and turn out. There’s a lot of families and people that have never sampled the fish and the comments are just unbelievable. The people just really like it,” East Peoria Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rick Swan said.
The chefs lined the walkways in front of Bass Pro, and Clint Carter of Carter’s Fish Market said he hopes the people will see that Asian carp is an edible fish that can be delicious.
“They can use them in so many different ways. Why just kill them when you can help feed people with it,” Carter said. “There’s so many hungry people in the world.”
Also present was the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. The union hosted a dinner after the tournament to help raise funds.
“We filmed an Asian carp episode here on the river and that kind of sparked the idea to have a whole festival,” Kate Cywinski, senior communications director for the union said.
The union works on several different conservation projects throughout the country and Cywinski said it was a neat idea to tie the dinner and tournament together.
“Our conservation dinners go to a conservation project,” Cywinski said. “In this case, with the Asian carp being such an issue in the area, we decided to tie it in with the festival.”
Contestants involved in the tournament were aiming for a cash prize with a weigh-in at the end of the day. Teams were allowed to weigh in up to 20 fish that were caught in the day.
The winning team traveled from Portageville, Mo., and walked away with a $1,500 prize for first place.
The team was captained by Max Clark and they also won the biggest fish prize of $325. They weighed in 179.26 pounds all together and the biggest carp caught was 19.96 pounds.
Coming in second for $1,000 was Team Rebel from Newark with a total weight of 162.11 pounds.
In third was Team Wisconsin and was captained by Sawyer Taylor from Marshfield, Wis. and weighed in at 146.48 pounds.
Fourth place was team Outdoorexperience.com and was captained by Tony Perotti at 134.52 pounds.
In fifth was the only local team, Relentless Pursuit, out of Canton and captained by Heather Dale. Relentless Pursuit totaled at 133.13 pounds for the day.
The total weight of fight caught from teams up to 20 fish was about 1,800 pounds.
Swan said with the success of this year’s tournament, they will be looking at holding it for years to come.
“We’re going try and get more participants out on the river, some more displays and maybe even a few more people cooking,” Swan said.