Chicago Sun-Times
Stray Casts will intelligently report and observe, hopefully with a touch of wit, on daily occurrences, reports and releases related to Chicago-area outdoors from bucks to bass to birds to bugs

Talking trash (fish) and going native

| 8 Comments | No TrackBacks

Bill Meyer makes a strong case for tweaking how Illinois fisheries managers look at and define trash fish.

''There is, however, a clear, scientifically based division between fish species. In one group should be the 'native' species, including but not limited to bass, walleye, crappie, gar, bowfin and suckers. The other group should be the 'non-native' or 'invasive' species, including gobies, ruffe and common, bighead and silver carp. The native species should be regulated as 'sport fish' are now, and the non-native species should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing, snagging or commercial methods.''

Meyer is a junior high science teacher, the gar-fishing aficionado who founded Gar Anglers' Sporting Society (GASS) and the holder of Illinois' record for shortnose gar.

I had not communicated with Meyer in a long time, then last week we exchanged several emails because, first, the signing of Senate Bill 2129, which added drum and shad to the species open to bowfishing, gigging, etc., then about Charles ``Mac'' Sloan catching a big gar.

I connect the dots between Sloan's gar and Meyer's distinction between native and non-native in today's column in the Sun-Times.

I like the distinction Meyer makes. It would keep plenty of invasive species, which are numerous, open to bowfishing and similar means of pursuit, but yet respects our native species.

When it comes to youth, bowfishing is an intriguing sport that draws the kids in. I have observed numerous bowfishing demonstrations and that's how kids are supposed to look when doing outdoor stuff, excited and happy.

Several Web sites --, and -- do a good job of championing the fringe native species.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


I'd be in favor of protecting all native species as game fish, it makes a lot of sense.

I'd also favor much more liberal regulations on invasive species to help control and day dreaming I know, eliminate them.

In two words, and you can figure them out....BS!
The Gar angling group, as well as the Carp angling group are truely fringe groups as Dale states. Fringe anti hunting groups. Bowfishing is not their way of harvesting a species, so it should be banned. Both groups have singled out bowfishing on their forums and attacked it with the same vigor that peta attacks all hunting/fishing sports. They have urged state DNRs to ban or curb bowfishing and have succeeded in several areas with no scientific proof, no lake or river population studies to support their claims. They dont like bowfishing for their "special species" so they attack this ancient activity the same way any antihunter would.

The harvesting of a fish originally had one purpose. Food. The fish were harvested by bow or by line to feed families. NOT to drag thru the water, hoist into the air for a picture and then return to the water to satisfy a "sportsmans" need to feel he accomplished something over the intelligence of a cold blooded creature with a brain the size of a grain of rice.

Bowfishing is an ancient way of harvesting fish that is as ethical as any other outdoor activity.

IF the DNR feels there is a down turn in any fish population I am sure they will place the proper limits and regulations on the harvest of those fish REGARDLESS of the manner in which they were harvested. THEY are the proper people to make the decisions NOT a selfish member of an angling group who thinks its their way or no way when it comes to harvesting a fish. Plus, many state biologists have told me many times that the impact of bowfishing is zero, nada nothing on any fish population. If your going to "protect" a native species, you better be fair and protect them from the hook & line fishermen who outnumber us
100 s to 1.

All outdoorsmen need to support the next guy. Regardless of the way they harvest an animal as long as it is legal. Trying to ban ones right to take a legal species is anti behavior. Anyone who supports these moves is also supporting anti behavior, and all should be shunned by outdoorsmen for being antis. Personally, gar are my favorite fresh water fish to bowfish. ALL go on my table or on someone elses. Our club has detailed cleaning instructions as well as recipes. So with that said, I tend to get a little PO`d when I hear of someone trying to take my right away from me due to the fact they dot like the way I harvest them.

Ed DeVries
Pres. Bowfishing Assoc. of Illinois

Just wanted to add this letter sent to the DNR urging them to stop bowfishing for gar. This is nothing but an anti hunting move taken on by a selfish "sportsmans" group to stop another outdoor activity as they dont like the way its done. No creel studies to support it, no mention of limits for all if supported by creel studies, just a statement designed to stop bowfishing. Ingred Newkirk would be proud IMO.

Steve Pallo
IDNR, Division of Fisheries
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, Illinois 62702

Dear Mr. Pallo,

The objective of the IDNR Division of Fisheries is clear.

The mission of the Illinois Division of Fisheries is to demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.

And yet, one of the practices of the Division undermines this mission. Throughout the official Fishing Regulations a distinction is made between port fish (such as bass, walleye, and crappie) and other species (including gar, bowfin, and suckers). There is absolutely no scientifically-based reason for such a distinction. There is no reason why gar should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing and not largemouth bass. Similarly, there is no reason why redhorse suckers are allowed to be snagged with no limit and not walleye.

There is a clearer, more scientifically-based division between fish species. In one group should be the native species including but not limited to bass, walleye, crappie, gar, bowfin, and suckers. The other group should be the non-native or invasive species including gobies, ruffe, and common, bighead, and silver carp. The native species should be regulated as sport fish are now and the non-native species should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing, snagging, or commercial methods.

We would like to encourage the Division of Fisheries to make this change to better demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.”


Bill Meyer
Gar AnglersSporting Society

Chuck Meyer
Bowfin Anglers’ Group

Steve and Ed
Trying to throw this into a PETA or anti-hunting argument is disingenous at best. And frankly I am disappointed in both of you. That's simply a way of disregarding the point being made.
The bottom line is very simple, and Bill's point is legitimate. The IDNR made a decision on gar that they would never make on largemouth bass. Ever.
The department makes restrictive regulations that have nothing to do with science regularly and everything to do with satisfying the interests of special groups, especially in regard to bass and muskie. The best example recently is the complicated and unnecessary set of regulations for smallmouth on streams. Gar and dogfish don't receive that kind of consideration. I don't know that either gar or dogfish need that kind of protection, but I know smallmouth did not need that kind of protection either but were given it and the group that pushed through the streams smallmouth regs wasn't smeared by being equated with PETA or anti-hunting.
All you need to know about this discussion is if muskie, largemouth, walleye or smallmouth (species all doing well in Illinois) were ever opened to bowfishing or spearing or gigging, all hell would break loose.

So would non-native species include King Salmon, Coho Salmon, Steelhead Trout, or even Ring-necked Pheasants?

Bowfishing and catch and release flyfishing are recreational activities. The value of which is determined purely by which you enjoy more.

The only science should be determined if one recreational activity has a disproportionate impact on another persons recreational activity. There are simply not enough of us bowfisherman to be impacting anyone else's enjoyment of their sports.

If specific sites are subject to too much pressure, then set limits like they do on catfish or bluegills. However, don’t base the laws on your personal preferences or some arbitrary distinction between native and non-native. We want more of some non-natives and we want less of some native species. It is arbitrary and definitely not science based distinction.

I disagree with you strongly on your comments. GASS has one intention , to stop bowfishing for a species they hold dear, and that is the whole reson for their letter campaign as shown in their letter. Bowfishing for non-native only.

Gar have been bowfished for many years with out any reduction in their population. As a matter of fact, I took Don Dziedzina and a editor for Russell publications out filming a bowfishing segment for the TV show just last week where I was able to show them literally hundreds of gar in a small area. I also showed them the invasive common carp and they saw first hand the turbidity caused by these destructive fish when they were feeding. Gar are in no danger of being over harvested. Bowfin are in no danger of being over harvested. Buffalo , drum and shad are in no danger of being over harvested. Fisheries biologists will attest to that. So why re-classify these fish as the author of the above letter states and allow only bowfishing for non-native fish? What right does anyone have to take anothers chosen sport or the species they have been allowed to pursue for many years away from them? In the letter above the authors specifically call for an end for bowfishing for native species.

Why dont we bowfish for bass or other native fish? I dont know. You tell me. If I can harvest a bass by hook and line and legally keep my limit these fish will be removed from the waters. Why cant one take these fish with a bow using the same limit? It still results in a limit of fish harvested from the water either way. If I didnt bowfish and legally took my limit it would be OK, but I cant take the same legal limit using a bow. Same result, just different gear. So, why?

As far as comparing the anti bowfishing moves by GASS to peta`s anti hunting moves, they are exactly the same IMO. Peta wants to stop all sportsmen from taking game. GASS wants to stop bowfishermen from taking gar bowfin and other "native" species. Both result in the same thing, the end of an outdoorsmens chosen activity with no scientific proof to justify the action, just their emotion.

Dress up a pig its still a pig. Call anti hunting re-regulating, its still anti hunting.

I suppose if they get their way then they need to classify all native species as "sport" animals.

You know, like moles and field mice...and mosquitoes.

Actually, did you know that whitetail deer were extirpated from Illinois and then reintroduced? Of course you do. So does this make them a non-native species that should have NO regulation? Or does this make them the same as the Gray Wolf, American Elk and Mountain Lion which were also extirpated but NOT reintroduced? Are they native or not? Are they protected or not?

What about wild horses? If I remember correctly horses were brought over from Spain? Well then I guess that makes them a non-native species and so if you see them you can kill as many as you want in any way you see fit. Oh but wait, there's federal regulation protecting them. I guess we should do away with that, right? Just based on the fact that they aren't a "native" species. Sounds pretty stupid doesn't it?

On the other side of the coin, how about wild dogs? Wild dogs were in North America long before European or Spanish voyagers ever came here. So I guess wild dogs are a native species and should be protected or regulated, right? So if you happen to see a pack of wild dogs in your back yard, you better leave them alone, after all, they're "native" to North America.

My point is that it is absolutely ridiculous to make the argument that native vs non-native should be the ONLY determining factor as to whether a species is regulated or not. Why don't we look at the self-sustainability of the species when there is no regulation in place. Is there a fear that gar or bowfin will become extinct or endangered due to bowfishing? Show me some scientific evidence. Oh wait, fringe groups that try to change the way that OTHER people live their lives don't usually have any
kind of scientific data do they? They simply want to "regulate" what others do because they don't like it.

Yes, I would say this sounds very similar to the things that organizations like P3TA try to do. They choose not to eat meat and therefore no one should be able to. Sounds similar to the Gar Anglers, Bowfin Anglers and Carp Anglers who choose not to bowfish, and therefore no one should be able to.

The ONLY reason that this issue has surfaced is that there is fringe group of Rod & Reel fishermen, who happen to like to R&R fish for gar and dogfish, that DO NOT like bowfishing. Well I happen to love bowfishing and cannot stand R&R fishing, it's just boring to me. But that's MY opinion on that sport, not yours. Does that mean that I, as someone who does NOT participate in a particular sportsman activity, should be the one to try to change regulations for that activity? Should I try to ban R&R fishing for gar and bowfin? Of course not! If you enjoy R&R fishing, then please go enjoy yourself. But please don't tell me that I cannot enjoy myself just because you don't like it. R&R fishermen line the banks of the Starved Rock area, right along the banks that I want to troll through to bowfish for Asian Carp. So THEY are actively hindering the activity that I enjoy. Do you think in a million years we would try to get R&R fishing from the bank regulated just so we could do what we wanted? That would be selfish and unwarranted wouldn't it?

See, the difference is that if a group of people were trying to take away the rights of another sportsman's activity, like gar angling, our organization would fight tooth and nail along side them to help them to keep their rights. We have enough ANTI groups out there. We, as sportsmen, need to work together, not fight within our own ranks. Thanks for reading, I certainly hope this little bit of text helps to broaden your view on this issue.

Wayne Reed

Simple ethics - if you kill an animal, honor it by eating the meat and using as much of the animal as possible. Killing solely for sport is inhumane and sickening.


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on August 23, 2009 6:13 AM.

Kings a'comin' was the previous entry in this blog.

Doves and sunflowers: Sidetracked is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.