GILBERTSVILLE — Approximately 200 people attended a public information meeting at the Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center last week to learn about Asian Carp Aid.
Matt Quinn, owner of HITEC Outdoors, and five other concerned citizens have formed the new nonprofit. As board of directors for Asian Carp Aid, they hope to use feedback gained from the meeting to decide if the community will support, through manpower and attendance, a two- or three-day festival to battle Asian carp through multiple fishing tournaments and philanthropy.
Quinn said funds from that festival, which the board hopes will reach at least $2 million, would be used in the battle against Asian carp in the lakes and, maybe even more importantly, the negative perception of Kentucky and Barkley lakes due to the invasive species.
“Ideas are easy, execution is hard,” he said. “We can’t rely on the War on Carp, we can’t rely on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and we can’t rely on the federal government to do it. We have to do it; that’s how we’re going to get it done.”
Ron Lappin, a board member who also co-chairs the tournament committee, said he’s been in the fishing business in Marshall County for more than 40 years and recently retired from FLW as a professional tournament organizer and tournament director.
“Don’t get me wrong, the carp is a problem but the perception is an even bigger problem,” he said. “The fishing is not good but it’s better than we’re getting credit for. I hate to see all the negativity that surrounds the issue.”
Lappin referenced businesses and lakefront homes for sale that aren’t earning market value and major tournaments moving to different bodies of water.
“All of this is because of the perception,” he explained. “This can’t continue.”
Quinn said his bait and tackle revenue is down 47.5% and the fishing license sales are down 63.7% from 2012, which was the best year for bait and tackle before the Asian carp became prominent in the lakes.
Mike McManus of Marshall County, who attended the meeting, said he too is losing business and he sees the negative impact on other locally-owned businesses as well.
“I’ve lost eight clients this year who were devout fishermen and the people who bought their homes don’t care about fishing--but I realized that if this affects me as a commercial mowing guy, it also affects the grocery stores and gas stations and it’s a trickle-down effect to the resorts and it just doesn’t stop. It affects each one of us in some facet,” he said.
“I absolutely believe we can make this happen,” he added. “Matt Quinn’s concept is bigger than him and his business. He’s thinking about this entire county and he’s thinking about other states and he’s saying we need to take the lead here in Kentucky. We have to get out of the box and truly start thinking of ideas so everybody, even the people who don’t fish, can get involved.”
Quinn said the festival could include live music and informational seminars between sets; an Asian carp tasting because “some people are unaware of how good it is;” a vendor showcase featuring those associate with buying, processing and selling Asian carp; Asian carp bow fishing tournament; commercial fishing tournament; kids fishing tournament; scavenger hunt poker run; golf tournament; and 3D archery tournament with Asian carp targets.
He also spoke excitedly of the recent success of a 50/50 raffle hosted by West Side Nut Club near Evansville, Ind., which raised $1.2 million.
The money raised could be used to fund Asian carp commercial fishing activities, offering resources and incentive; game fish habitat restoration; building and upgrading fishing facilities (such as cleaning stations) and boat ramps; and major fishing tournaments.
Other board members includes Chris Onnybecker of Bee Spring Lodge & Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ray Barga of R. Barga & Co. Insurance, FLW Tour Pro Terry Bolton and lakefront property owner Kenny Ernst.