Longtime bowfisherman Stephen Banaszak already had the Texas record for the heaviest silver carp ever arrowed in the state. He can now add Oklahoma to his list. In mid-August, Banaszak arrowed a 31.3-pound silver carp in the Red River. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation made the state record official on Aug. 31.
“My first official OKLAHOMA state record!” Banaszak wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s been a lot of work and was hard earned but I’m glad to be doing my part to battle these invasive species!”
Little is known about Banaszak’s hunt for the record carp, but a photo on his Facebook profile reveals at least one of his secrets. It shows one of his bowfishing buddies sitting atop an 8-foot ladder that’s set up in the bow of his aluminum skiff. A little sketchy, perhaps, which Banaszak notes in the comments section. But, just like a tree stand, the added height gives a clear advantage when shooting carp in the shallows.
The ladder would also come in extra handy on the Red River, where Banaszak arrowed the new state record. As its name implies, the river takes on a muddy, reddish hue because of the red clay soil that it flows through.
In recent years, the Red has also become a haven for silver carp, which are an invasive species from Asia. Because these large filter feeders outcompete native fish and eat native mussels, they “have the potential to cause enormous damage” to the ecosystem, according to the ODWC. The carp are also prolific breeders. They’re considered a menace in the larger Mississippi and Ohio River Basins where they’re already well established.
Silver carp also pose a risk to boaters, water skiiers, and other humans recreating on the water. The fish have a habit of leaping high into the air when startled. Videos show hundreds of these “flying carp” in the wakes of motorboats.
For these reasons, ODWC wants the fish removed and encourages the state’s bowfishermen to do their part in harvesting them. (Because silver carp feed on plankton, they’re almost impossible to catch with a rod and reel.) The state’s fishing records program is just an added incentive for archers to catch and kill as many silver carp as possible.
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“Establishing state records for invasive species is an attempt to encourage anglers to fish for them and REMOVE them,” ODWC wrote in a Facebook post celebrating Banaszak’s new record. “It is EXTREMELY important that these invaders are not released back into the water so they are not allowed to expand their range.”
The agency's post also warned anglers that juvenile silver carp look a lot like gizzard shad, which are commonly used as bait when fishing for bass and other game fish. As an added precaution to prevent the spread of silver carp, ODWC prohibits the movement of bait from one waterbody to another.
Dac Collins contributed reporting.