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Community holds annual competition to catch highly invasive fish suffocating local ecosystem: 'Good causes, and great times'

As an added twist, fishing rods are prohibited at the tournament.

As an added twist, fishing rods are prohibited at the tournament.

Photo Credit: iStock

Illinois residents recently had a chance to catch some delicious fish, help protect the environment, and experience the thrill of competition all at the same time at the annual Redneck Fishing Tournament on the Illinois River, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier reported.

The focus of the tournament was catching as many Asian carp — which the state has been attempting to rename "copi" — as possible. The carp were introduced in the United States in the 1970s and have spread throughout waterways in the American South and Midwest. A highly invasive species, they seem to thrive everywhere and eat up so much plankton and algae that they starve out native fish.

To combat their spread, state agencies and ecological groups have turned to a variety of strategies. One is the name change, which attempts to do the same thing for the Asian carp that changing Patagonian toothfish to Chilean sea bass did in the 1990s (despite the fact that that fish is neither from Chile nor a bass). 

Another strategy is hosting events such as the Redneck Fishing Tournament, wherein participants are encouraged to enjoy the "ugly fish, cold beer, good causes, and great times," per event organizer Nikki Gregerson, who said, "You owe it to yourself to check it out."

As an added twist, since copi are known for jumping out of the water, fishing rods are prohibited at the tournament, and anglers are instead required to catch the fish by plucking them out of the air using nets.

Other such competitions around the world also encourage people to catch and eat invasive species. In Australia, the annual Namoi Carp Muster removes tons of carp from rivers. In the Gulf of Mexico, an annual tournament allows spearfishers to compete to see who can catch the most invasive lionfish. A separate competition features local chefs showing off their preparations of the fish.

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