It’s the closest thing to shooting fish in a barrel, but don’t tell that to the participants in this year’s US Open Bowfishing Championship held in Springfield, Missouri this week.

Bowfishing, if you don’t know, consists of firing an arrow into a fish you can see from the surface such as Asian carp or gar fish. And it’s one of the fastest growing sports in America.

To celebrate this rapidly emerging sport, the third annual bowfishing championship hosted by Bass Pro Shops is expected to draw more than 1,000 competitors June 12-15. Accompanied by a boat show and fair throughout the day, anglers compete from 7 pm to 7 am for the most and the largest fish.

Last year’s winners brought 376 pounds of rough fish to the scales and took home $10,000. The grand prize this year will be $25,000.

The rise in bowfishing popularity, with Realtree Outdoors featuring a bowfishing show on television, directly relates to the growth rate in Asian carp and gar fish that have taken over Midwest waters in recent years. You can bowfish just about anything you can see from the surface, but most often bowfishing targets invasive species so that the large number of fish caught with this method actually serves the fishery.

Carp and gar, for instance, are bottom feeders that starve out bass and crappie. And they eat everything in sight including the fertilized eggs of the young spawn.

In recent years, Asian carp has become so prevalent in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers that it’s wrecked havoc on the fisheries there. And with their tendency to get airborne, they posed a real threat to boats and the heads of passengers. Carp recently discovered in the St. Croix River in Missouri, one of the furthest north the species has been spotted, has anglers concerned. 

Events such as the US Open Bowfishing Championship and the sport in general can go a long way toward helping eradicate this invasive species. In fact, the rise in carp has even spawned other sports such as “skarping,” which consists of snagging flying carp from water skis and dunking them into a basketball hoop being towed behind the boat.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons