If you waterfowl hunt, especially if you are currently chasing the great white storm of spring snow geese, you know it’s been a little tough in some areas the past week or so.
If you waterfowl hunt, you also probably have a bedtime and breakfast ritual that consists of multiple messages, e mails, phone calls, ad nauseum all saying the same thing “Where are the birds?” “Are there new birds here yet?”.
Consequently, I wasn’t surprised to see a notification for a message from my pal Nicholas Holdinghausen of Marion early this morning.
What did surprise me was what the message contained -
photo courtesy of Gary McCree
Holdinghausen shared with me that he saw the goose just as he was stepping from the truck and uncasing his gun. For my buddy Nick, quick thinking, and good shooting paid off this morning, especially since many of us are lamenting the lack of new birds, and the difficult conditions. The goose not only sported the standard numbered leg band, but also a monetary reward band. How lucky can one fella get before breakfast?
Holdinghausen was hunting with the famed caller Gary McCree of Goosemaster’s Place. Holdinghausen has suffered through a full waterfowl season of good natured ribbing from many of us in Southern Illinois - bestowing nicknames like “The Jinx” and “The Black Cat” referring to the sometimes sudden stop of waterfowl activity when he arrives. I feel certain this is his way of telling us he has sent that black cat packing!
Congrats Nick and know this old gal is very envious!
*****UPDATE***** Holdinghausen reports that the bird was banded on an island in Nunavut, Canada and it was banded in 2005. That tells me that bird was smart, wary, old goose and just think about it; that goose has been shot at likely for 10 seasons, and Nick was the one to out smart it!
The bowfishing community first became aware of the proposed changes to tournament regulations when the 2015 Fishing Digest was released prematurely. Shortly after the release, the bowfishing community was up in arms concerning the new regulation that limited the number of native rough fish that could be taken during a tournament. Despite the mobilization of the bowfishing tournament community – they were not as successful as the pole and line tournament community in getting the offending language of the proposal struck before it went to admin rules.
The pole and line tournament anglers made short work of having the language concerning curfews and limited periods during the summer months struck before the proposal ever went to admin rules. I have to wonder why the bowfishing tournament community’s voice was not heard as well. My best guess is that fisheries has no real idea what bowfishing tournaments bring to the state in terms of license revenue, tourism and sales tax dollars; or they simply do not care. After all, we are just those blood thirsty bowfishers, we aren’t as sexy as the bass guys with the glitter boats. It’s public perception issue.
What exactly is the proposed regulation that singles out bowfishing tournaments for limits on native rough fish?
The specific language and portions of the prosed regulation that have caused the uproar are as follows:
B) Bowfishing Tournament Harvest Limits for all waters – A daily tournament harvest of no more than 10 native fish (all species in aggregate) (no culling) applies (all fish taken must be legal to take with bowfishing methods) except in Special Fish Management Areas designated by the Department where less restrictive harvest limits may be specified in the Permit. All invasive fish (legal to take with bowfishing methods) have an unlimited take limit.
d) Issuance or denial of a permit shall be based upon the following criteria:
1) The capability of the fishery resource to absorb the tournament with minimal impact to its well-being, including a daily harvest limit of no more than 10 native fish (all legal to take with bowfishing methods), except in special management areas as authorized by the Department. All invasive fish (legal to take with bowfishing methods) have an unlimited take limit.
Let’s pick this apart a bit –
Native fish – also in this proposed change to fishing regulations exists language that labels legal bowfishing species as native or nonnative. We are talking rough fish – certainly not your bass, catfish or crappie. The only fish listed as non-native with no harvest limits are: Common carp, Grass carp, Silver carp, Bighead carp, Black carp, and goldfish. Further these fish are referred to as invasive in some parts of the proposed regulation but have not officially been labeled as invasive by Illinois. So, are they invasive or non-native? Could we please make the language agree in this? There is no list of invasive fish available in the fish and aquatic code at present.
The list of native fish that would fall under the harvest limits includes commonly targeted species by bowfishers such as gar, buffalo, drum, bowfin, and shad among others.
The limits are not specified as to per person, per team, or per tournament. While it is assumed per participant, with that not clearly expressed this leaves the regulation open to a wide interpretation.
The biggest question with this proposal remains – if indeed the populations of these native rough fish are endangered, threated, declining, or just plain need protection of some sort; why is this harvest limit only for bowfishing tournaments? When I asked fisheries staff if bowfishing tournaments had been identified as reason for any decline in native fish populations the answer was no. In fact they really weren’t sure exactly what the cause could be at this point. When I asked fisheries staff why just bowfishing tournaments – the answer I was given is that bowfishing tournaments were the smallest common denominator in three river basins in IL (that were not identified by fisheries staff during the conversations) that showed a decline in native fish populations. Smallest common denominator sounds like government verbiage for smallest user group to me.
It makes no sense to me to limit a tournament bowfisher, and yet a non-tournament bowfisher right beside the boat has zero harvest limits. Pole and line have zero harvest limits, trot lines have zero harvest limits – no other angler has any harvest limits on these fish.
As for the “Special Fish Management Areas” – well those have yet to be determined. How can we include that in regulation when none currently exist, and we have no assurance that they will be developed in a timely manner, if developed at all?
While bowfishers who called and complained to DNR were told that essentially it would be up to the biologist for the tournament water to issue the tournament permit and they could also lift the native fish limit – I fail to see that clearly addressed in the regulation and fear that should this go through we will be told “Well, we thought that was how it would work…”
Especially since the tournament harvest limits are clearly stated as a factor in the issuance or denial of permit.
Let’s be clear on this point - tournament bowfishers certainly don’t want to be taking native fish that need protection. If DNR could or would provide us with data that clearly shows not only a significant decline in these populations, but also a direct correlation to bowfishing tournaments, this would be more palatable. If the regulations were site specific, in waters where an issue occurs, again more palatable and understandable. In the Illinois register, the proposal even states: “Published studies or reports, and sources of underlying data, used to compose this rulemaking: None”.
This proposal gives the perception that bowfishing tournaments have been singled out, that Illinois is not bowfishing friendly, does not welcome bowfishing tournaments.
How exactly does this impact a bowfishing tournament? First – there is no culling allowed for non-native fish with harvest limits, and its aggregate species.
Suppose for a moment I am participating in a “Big 20” bowfishing tournament where the biggest 20 fish of the night are weighed in. It’s on a body of water that really doesn’t hold much in the way of carp, but is overrun with gar and buffalo. Bowfishing tournaments are typically 12 hours in duration. Two hours into the tournament, I have shot 5 gar and 5 drum. I am done. I can’t cull, I can’t target a larger gar or drum that comes along, I am simply done. Not to mention, in an effort to comply instead of having a common tub for the team, we would all have to have individual tubs for our fish to keep straight who has what as far the limits go. This makes for a difficult tournament to shoot.
Secondly, we need to address a numbers tournament. In that case the team with the highest number of fish in the boat wins. Again, on waters with rough fish, but few non-native fish – that’s not going to work. We are all operating under limits. There is little competition and will effective stop all numbers tournaments.
Lastly, has direct economic impact on the small communities that routinely host bowfishing tournaments and rely in the increased dollars that tournaments bring in each summer. Bowfishers will not travel the 1-300 miles, bear the expenses associated with a tournament when there are such limits that severely restrict only bowfishing tournament participants.
This current proposed change to bowfishing tournaments does not use sound science or good methodology, restricts only an admittedly small single user group, will be damaging to the economies of small rural communities that routinely host bowfishing tournaments, and will result in the loss of tourism dollars and nonresident license fees. If all other user groups remain able to take these nonnative fish without limits there can be no reason that only bowfishing tournaments should be held to such restrictive limits of ten native fish.
I encourage everyone to review the proposed changes to the Sport fishing Regulations that are currently being reviewed by the Admin Rules committee and make public comment. The proposed regulation changes can be viewed here beginning on page 1867.
Once again I’m preparing to head off to the annual Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show in Marion. The show opens today (Friday) at 3pm and offers visitors a variety of fishing outdoor related vendors and seminars.
I always especially enjoy this show, there’s quite the variety of activities, seminars, and vendors plus, it’s in such an enviable location close to Crab Orchard NWR. I can combine my visit to the show with a visit to Crab Orchard NWR which usually offers some great wildlife and waterfowl watching and photo opportunities this time of year.
The show attracts more than 10,000 people each year to the City of Marion’s Pavilion event center. This will be the eighth year for the show, and it has shown steady growth since its inception.
The Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show hours are 3 to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission, parking and seminars are FREE. Yes, FREE. This is great way for the family to have fun filled outing at no cost. The Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show is the only free show in the Midwest that offers a combination of free parking, free admission, and free seminars for the whole family to enjoy.
This show is bit different in that it is used to raise funds for local children’s and youth organizations. The children’s organizations are the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation and Gum Drops NFP, which provides healthy foods for children facing hunger.
Between the boat, RV, jet ski and ATV dealers and a plethora of fishing tackle and equipment vendors and guide services; a visit to the Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show will surely have you leaving with fishing fever and an itch to the hit the water.
Event sponsor Absher-Arnold Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Marion will also show some of its new vehicles.
Always a hit at the annual show are the seminars presented by the biologists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The biologists do a great job of offering anglers good information regarding the local waters and fisheries. I’ve found some great fishing hot spots thanks to these seminars! Additionally, fishing guides will offer daily seminars, to help you learn new techniques and tactics for improving your fishing success.
There are always plenty of fun things for the wee ones to enjoy and this year they will also get a chance to collect balloon animals by Magical Twists and face painting by Alotta Fun 4U2 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
For the more adventurous, (weather permitting) helicopter rides are also available from Black Diamond Harley-Davidson.
The popular FREE event contains something for everyone and has become a sure sign that spring is returning to Southern Illinois. The 10,000 plus attendance at the show each year just proves that outdoor recreation is a way of life in Southern Illinois.
The Pavilion is north of Illinois Centre Mall at 1602 Sioux Drive. More information, including motel accommodations, is available through the Williamson County Tourism Bureau by calling 800-GEESE-99 or visiting www.VisitSI.com.