Fish expert blasts bowfishing tournament; says it is important to the ecosystem

On his last cast of the day, Springfield fly fisherman Jim Stouffer pulled this 51-inch gar from the James River with a hookless lure in 2013 He released the fish unharmed, and said gar are powerful fighters.

Missouri’s prehistoric gar fish shouldn’t be wholesale slaughtered during this weekend’s big bowfishing tournament, according to a fish expert from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Solomon David, a fish ecologist who specializes in research on the toothy, armor-plated fish, recently learned of the World Bowfishing Championship sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, said Missouri gar are a native species that shouldn’t be lumped in with non-native invasive carp.

“I have no problem with them taking out invasive species like carp,” David said. But gar are a native species that have a valuable role as apex predators.

Solomon David, fish ecologist with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, said he is concerned about bowfishing's impact on gar, like the one he's holding.

He said gar help keep other fish populations from overwhelming a lake — especially shad, which can reproduce in massive numbers.

“Bowfishing tournaments on a big scale can have an impact on the ecosystem if those apex predators are removed,” David said.

Saturday’s competition will bring 275 bowfishing teams to five area lakes where they’ll target common carp, grass carp, buffalo and gar, with prizes for the biggest haul and record fish.