BATH, Ill. (KMOX) – More than 7,000 invasive carp were removed from the Illinois River this past weekend during the 9th Annual Redneck Fishing Tournament.

“Every year I’m amazed at how many people turn out,” said Betty DeFord, who organizes the tournament. “More and more people are being made aware of the problems these fish create.”

Four, 2-hour fishing heats spread over Friday and Saturday netted 7,126 fish. The Sushi Slayer team from Washington, Ill. took first place with 531 Asian carp. Schafer Fisheries hauled away the fish to process into fertilizer.

Tournament proceeds will help homeless veterans through the Veterans Affairs hospital in Danville. More than $1,700 was raised through raffles. The Sushi Slayers and other top finishers donated their winnings to help the cause.

What’s unique about the Redneck Fishing Tournament is no poles are allowed. Participants catch the fish, which can top 20 pounds, with nets as they jump from the river when spooked by the noise of the motors.

Asian carp have taken over stretches of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Their jumping makes water recreation dangerous and they destroy native species’ habitat.

This year, the tournament added cooking demonstrations as part of a growing effort to establish a market for the fish that are disgusting looking but tasty if properly prepared. Chef Philippe Parola from Louisiana and Clint Carter from Carter’s Fish Market in Springfield showed how to clean and cook the carp.

“My mission is to educate people how good this fish is to eat,” said Parola.

The tournament began out of DeFord’s frustration with her grandchildren being pelted by carp while trying to enjoy the river. The tournament now draws thousands annually to the tiny Mason County community. It attracts participants and media attention from around the world.

“Unfortunately, the carp will be back,” said DeFord. “But so will we.”

The 10th Annual Redneck Fishing Tournament is tentatively set for Aug. 7, 8, 2015.


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