As a native Central Illinoisan working in an office on the banks of the Illinois River, I’m all too familiar with the scaly menace of the silver carp and its less annoying cousin, the bighead carp.
For those living under a rock, these Asian species were imported by some rednecks down south who thought they’d be great for cleaning the algae out of their ponds, never meaning to set them free into commercial waterways.
But since Murphy’s Law never takes a break, the fish found their way into the Mississippi River, supposedly after the record flooding of the early 1990s. Soon, the fish made their way up the Illinois River and to the front door of the Great Lakes.
Not only have the fish taken up the duty of all invasive species by displacing local species and screwing with local ecosystems, but the silvers have also become a surprising hazard for any pleasure craft on the water.
You see, these aren’t exactly minnows – they are huge-as-all-get-out carp that can weigh up to over 100 pounds, and in the silver’s case, are capable of leaping up to 10 feet out of the water. When the silvers are startled, they instinctively flail into the air, supposedly to escape predators. Problem is, these filthy buggers can be startled by pretty much anything vibrating in the water – like boat motors. And of course, those boats are full of people; people who typically don’t wear helmets. You can see where I’m going with this.
These fish can quickly turn a day on the river into a day at the hospital, with broken jaws, concussions and in one Peoria, Ill., woman’s case, a broken vertebra that left her unconscious in the water until fellow boaters could pull her out.
Since the carps’ population boom in the last few years, legislators have apparently twiddled their thumbs in coming up with the most B.A. method of disposing the Silver Scourge. Bowfishing has gained popularity, but why bother constantly reeling arrows back in when you can just fire a shot and be done with it? Enter a new push in the Illinois General Assembly.
House Bill 5317, introduced by Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland), would allow a statewide pilot program that would “permit licensed individuals to shoot Asian carp with a shotgun off of a motorboat in the Illinois River beginning with the 2013 licensing year,” provided that said individuals have the proper licenses and are using a specific ammunition.
The editors here at Petersen’s Hunting understand the potential danger of firing a few rounds of buckshot from a speeding boat – particularly within the limits of cities right on the river — which is why we would humbly suggest a couple amendments to the bill.
First, would a no-wake law hurt? Carpers (as I’ve chosen to call them) can only fire a shotgun if the boat is traveling at a certain speed, no doubt making the water far less choppy.
Second, use some common sense and don’t fire your Remington 870 all willy-nilly when your boat is only a few yards from the marina dock. We don’t want that couple on the boardwalk to take an ambulance ride anytime soon.
That said, we’re all for blasting this nasty nuisance to kingdom come, and when this bill becomes a law, we’re going to be the first ones on the river making fishsticks.
For photographic evidence of just how dangerous the silver carp can be, check out these photos by Jeff Konway.