There’s bowfishing brouhaha on the horizon, or perhaps we should call it a catfish controversy?
On April 24th, Ed Devries, President of Bowfishing Association of IL announced the following via social media;
LIMITED CHANNEL CAT BOWFISHING LEGAL FOR 2015 SEASON
Starting April 2015 bowfishers will be allowed to take a 6 fish limit of channel cat from the Illinois River between the starved rock dam and Dresden dam.
Now bowfishers will be able to harvest another fish that are excellent on the table thanks to the IDNR and the efforts of your BAI! Currently channel cats are a commercial fish that can be caught on trot line, bank pole, hook and line and now by bowfishing. Very cool news!!
Given the nature of social media and the internet, the information was shared throughout not only the bowfishing community, but also throughout the cat fishing community.
Suffice it to say that many in the cat fishing community were not happy with this news. Over and over again I heard from friends and colleagues in the cat fishing community telling me that while they were certainly not opposed to bowfishing, and in fact many were also bowfishers – they just were not in favor of this proposal/rule change as announced. I also heard from my friends in the bowfishing community who were equally certain that this would cause no damage to the catfish fisheries, and this was just another method of taking fish for the table.
In conversations with those in the cat fishing community, there were several common concerns. The first was the ability of the average recreational bowfisher being able to differentiate between species in murky river water. The second was that with no size limits in the rule change/proposal, trophy catfish would be killed, rather than practicing catch, photograph and release as is promoted by many trophy cat fishing organizations.
It didn’t take long and there seemed be a bit of dust up forming between the cat fishing community and BAI.
All the while, something kept nagging at me – I had not seen this come through the regulatory process for an admin rule change. I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to watching admin rule changes from our DNR, and I hadn’t seen this particular change on the regulatory agenda, or any notices of it being sent to rules committee etc. This sent up a bit of red flag. When I contacted Mr. Devries, he assured me that he had indeed received an e mail from DNR giving him this information.
However, after a conversation with a DNR Fisheries representative I learned that indeed no rule change had been made. I was told that BAI had sent a proposal to ILDNR requesting that catfish be added to the allowable species list, but at the current time, that was all that it was – a proposal for consideration. DNR receives many proposals throughout the year from various special interest sporting groups, conservation groups etc. and this was merely one of the many proposals they were currently reviewing. There was still the required process of reviewing the proposal, making any changes to the proposal that DNR felt were needed, along with the legally required process for an administrative rule change. At the time of this writing, this proposal has not yet been placed on the Regulatory Agenda, so it would seem that there must have been some miscommunication, either between DNR and Bowfishing Association of Illinois, or in Mr. Devries’ original announcement.
When speaking with the DNR representative I asked would it be more feasible to begin this as a pilot program on border waters with states that already allow catfish as an allowable species for bowfishing. While the DNR representative acknowledged that borders would seem a logical place to start, there is also the added burden of working with multiple state and federal regulatory agencies.
Interestingly, shortly after I had that particular conversation with DNR, BAI shared this announcement via social media :
Unfortunately, given the miscommunication of the first announcement, this announcement regarding border waters has been viewed with some skepticism. That said, the catfishing community was greatly relieved to hear that no rule change had been made yet, and that through the regulatory process they would indeed have a seat at the table if and when the proposed rule change is sent to committee.
If and when the proposed rule change is placed on the regulatory agenda and sent to the rules committee there will be a public comment period that will allow both those in favor of bowfishing for catfish and those against it to have ample opportunity to make their voices heard.
For those who wish to stay tuned to the legislative process regarding this matter, there are several ways to access the information. One is through the weekly Flinn Report that outlines proposed rule changes and their current status. Another method is to stay current with the regulatory agendas via the Illinois Register found on the IL Secretary of State Web site.
My gut tells me this will be a highly debated change. My goal is to keep the Heartland community updated as changes occur, and there will be a more in depth look at the issue coming in the next print issue of Heartland with comments from both the bowfishing community and the catfishing community.
Until then, I am most curious to see where the Heartland community stands on the issue of bowfishing for catfish. Should catfish be an allowable species? Should bowfishers be limited to only rough or invasive species? Remember – keep it clean and keep it civil. Bowfishing is great sport and enjoyed by many (including me!) and does a great service to sportfishing anglers by helping to removing many invasive and injurious species from the waters.