Fishermen from several different countries will be angling for a share of $15,000 in prize money this weekend in Ballard County, taking part in the first International Asian Carp Tournament.
The first-of-its-kind tournament is being sponsored by Express Fishing & Sports Corporation, one of several Chinese companies affiliated with the International Fisheries Industrial Park in Wickliffe, spearheaded by Angie Yu, president of Two Rivers Fisheries which anchors the park located along Ky. 286.
The tournament runs from noon Saturday to noon Sunday and is attacting participants from China, Canada and Mexico, along with fishermen from the west Kentucky region, all with one goal in mind -- to reduce the Asian carp population in area waterways.
Both bow fishing and pole fishing will be included in the tournament, primarily focusing on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the numerous lakes which are part of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' Ballard Wildlife Management Area.
According to Yu, the tournament presents a sort of challenge between the two fishing methods, the pole fishing favored by the Chinese fishermen planning to attend and the bow fishing favored by the west Kentucky region's fishermen.
"The bow fishermen tell me they see size of the fish and take the bigger ones," Yu said. "But the Chinese fishermen tell me that (even) bigger ones, like the 40- or 50-pound ones, are (farther) under the water and they know how to get them out.
"It's kind of like a challenge between Chinese kung fu and American boxing," she said, with a laugh.
According to Todd Cooper, Ballard County judge-executive, at one time Kentucky was among the top states in the nation in the bow fishing industry, as far as supplies like bows and arrows, boats, and all the equipment needed.
The top prize is $10,000 for the highest weight of a fisherman's top 10 fish caught. The largest single Asian carp caught will bring a $1,000 prize. The weigh-in will be held after the noon deadline Sunday, at the Ballard County Fairgrounds in La Center.
Two Rivers Fisheries will take all of the Asian carp caught in the 24-hour tournament and process it for fertilizer and bait.
The International Fisheries Industrial Park was announced in April, with investors representing seven new companies all related to the processing of Asian carp.
According to Cooper, plans for the park are continuing to take shape.
Investment in the park, and the attention events like the fishing tournament bring are a positive not only for Ballard County, but the entire region, Cooper said.
"It just gives people an idea of the assets we have here in west Kentucky and this beautiful scenery, and gets people from other parts of the world to our area," he said.
"Angie and her team are involved in marketing Asian carp to other parts of the world where it is a delicacy. It's been really neat to kind of sit back and watch how it is all taking place and to combat the issue (of overpopulation)."
Cooper also credits the efforts of Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, who has helped draw national attention to the problems the invasive species of fish causes.
"Judge White has just taken the ball and run with it to bring attention to the issue of Asian carp in Kentucky," he said.
In August, White was a panelist in a public forum, sponsored by Kenai River Sportsfishing Association, in Alaska on the importance, challenges and opportunities of scientific, data-based fisheries research for fishery conservation and allocation.
He spoke on invasive species and national impacts to sportsfishing. The keynote speaker for the event was U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.