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Bowfishing Tournament in Iowa Center of Debate


A recent bowfishing tournament on the Mississippi River causes an uproar from Iowa residents. 

A recent bowfishing tournament in Iowa on the Mississippi River raised huge amounts of complaints from residents on the river.

The tournament was held last month by the Bowfishing Association of America, where 130 competitors took to a Mississippi River refuge. The tournament ran from dusk until dawn, and fishermen were said to have ran loud airboats and blinding lights in search of gar and carp for cash prizes.

“It turned night into day and blasted our ear drums like we were on an airport runway,” said Tim Mason who lives with his wife on a houseboat during the summer in the area where the tournament took place.

Many of the residents along the river, campers, and other visitors not only complained of the noise and lights, but also worried about the teams of competitors disturbing the local wildlife.

Federal regulators received so many complaints they are considering adding tighter restrictions to bowfishermen in the state of Iowa.

The director of the tournament, Matt Harris, felt many of the complaints were bogus and defended the bowfisherman using the refuge.

“It’s just something a lot of people along the river aren’t used to seeing, a lot of boat traffic at night,” said Harris. “At least where I was shooting, I can’t really see how our boat noise would be anything that would be all that disruptive.”

The group of anglers did help to remove hundreds of invasive fish from the river and donated them to be turned into pig feed at a local farm.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility believe the tournament violated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules for the refuge they fished in. They want wildlife officials to enforce action against the event organizers, who did not have permits or give people in the area any notice of their plans.

Rules require any fishing tournament taking place inside the Mississippi River refuge to apply for permits from the state. They require minimal disturbances from anyone inside the refuge and prohibit the use of spotlights and loud powered equipment.

Fish and Wildlife only learned of the event a few days prior as fisherman participating began to arrive early to prepare.

“We were very much caught off guard,” said Sabrina Chandler, the supervisor of the refuge.

Refuge officials say that technically the tournament did not require a permit because it was a regional event. Under the refuge’s rules, regional events do not need permits, but they are considering closing that loophole during agency rewrites next year.

NEXT: The Truth about Bowfishing and the Ecosystem

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Bowfishing Tournament in Iowa Center of Debate