The Flying Carp/Redneck Fishing Tournament

Redneck fishing tournament

The name Redneck Fishing Tournament was enough to make me want to attend this fun event. While fun, this event has a serious goal of reducing Asian carp in the Illinois River! Betty DeFord started this event in 2013 to educate the public on the danger of Asian carp. This invasive species is supplanting native game fish. The reproduce quickly and are voracious eaters.

On August 5th, the first day of the Redneck Fishing Tournament, I convinced my friend Rose Hammitt to come along. I covered this fun event for the Prairieland Buzz and more! This event brings people from all over to compete in a costume contest and try to catch the most Asian carp in one of two daily heats.  Fish are caught using nets rather than the traditional fishing pole . Those that catch the most fish win a trophy and cash prize. This was my second time at the event, back in 2009 I attended with my son Jason!

Scene from the Redneck Fishing Tournament 2021.

I just checked the Red Neck Fishing Tournament facebook page and Betty DeFord shared, “Total fish count for Redneck 2021 first day total 1608 second day total 1226. Thanks to all the entrants for netting and catching 2834 silver carp and getting them before they could spawn again!!!!!!”

What are Asian Carp

Asian carp include bighead carp, black carp, grass carp and silver carp.  They originated from Asia and arrived in the US as a fish for aquaculture ponds, then through flooding and accidental release.

The Participants!

Joe Tooky in his Col. Klinger costume.

What fun watching people dress up for this event. Joe Tooky came all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to attend this event. He was Col. Klink from MASH. Don Thomas from Bloomington was Uncle Sam. There was even a Buck Naked gentleman dressed in long johns. Three couples came from Michigan with one girl saying this is a YOLO, You Only Live Once, thing! Thomas said it was a bucket list thing for him.

One boat had three participants dressed like Army or National Guardsmen. Later in the day I saw men with Santa Hats and more.

Matt Roth and Rick Marr owned the support boat the General Lee that Rose and I got a tour on!

Matt Roth, who donned a pirate hat for the event and Rick Marr come each year. They had a support boat and three other boats as well.

The Ride!

Our view from the boat.

Rick Marr allowed Rose and I to go out on the support boat, The General Lee! Onboard this two-hour ride, we witnessed the heat first hand. When the motor revved, the Asian carp began “flying” through the air, a site to behold! With fishing nets in hand, fishermen and women reached out to catch the flying carp. Some fish literally jumped right into the net. A few made their way into our boat. A bit slimy, I deferred to Rick to remove them from the boat floor!

This amazing view of a tree on the shore moved me.

It was exciting to watch. The fish seemed to like the downed tree areas. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the river seeing tree roots exposed is a reminder of what lies beneath and how intricate God’s natural world really is.

The carp counts at the Redneck Fishing Tournament

Once the heats are done, the carp are counted and then they become pet food! Above I listed Betty DeFord’s final totals for the two day event.

End Result of the Redneck Fishing Tournament

While this won’t really solve the Asian carp problem it is a great and fun way to educate the public on the danger of this invasive fish. Removing a few from the river is a way to make you feel better and slow it down a bit. Rick Marr grew up in Chandlerville and he remembered skiing in the river back when he was a boy. Today, that would be impossible with the fish jumping willy nilly at the sound of a boat motor. Rick warned that the fish can hurt if they hit you so I can’t imagine the results of being battered on a ski. This vision brought home the reality that these fish not only reduce natural game fish, but also take away recreational fun as well.

Keep an eye on my story in the Prairieland Buzz, it contains more details about this amazing event. Hats off to Betty DeFord for raising awareness. She also raised funds for homeless veterans as well making this truly a win-win event.