EAST PEORIA, Ill. - Bowhunters are being invited to shoot as many Asian carp as possible in a competition planned for July on the Illinois River in central Illinois.
Organizers are planning the first Flying Fish Festival and Bowfishing Tournament for July 11 and 12 with an East Peoria sporting goods store as the lead sponsor.
The event will offer cash prizes for the bowhunter who shoots the most of the invasive fish, some of which can leap high into the air if they are startled by boat motors. Asian carp dishes will be prepared and available at stands along the river.
The tournament will charge $120 per boat for up to four participants. Bowhunters, also known as bowfishers, use archery equipment to shoot fish.
Asian carp are an invasive species and have infested the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries. A multimillion dollar effort is under way to keep them out of the Great Lakes, where they could disrupt the fishing industry.
"This festival is about preservation and conservation on the Illinois River," said Mike Everett of the Union Sportsmen's Alliance at a news conference Friday at the Bass Pro Shops store, the lead sponsor of the event.
"It's also about a boatload of fun as we try to put a serious dent in the number of flying fish over a 50-mile area of the river," Everett said. "We'll shoot a bunch of them, and I intend to eat a bunch of them."
Fish left over after the festival will be taken to a processing plant, said John Hamann, rural economic director for Peoria County.
"We're looking for ways to keep this fish in check, and commercial use of this fish is one of those," Hamann said.
East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus held a crossbow at the podium as he thanked organizers.
"We're going to get rid of a few Asian carp," the mayor said.