Dumped dead fish raise a stink

Larry Woody • Jun 7, 2017 at 8:30 AM

When I pulled into the parking lot at Long Hunter State Park one morning awhile back I noticed a flock of buzzards swarming around the boat ramp.

It didn’t take long to see – and smell – what attracted them.

A dozen dead carp littered the ground. They weighed 2-3 pounds, and each had what appeared to be an arrow wound.

A fisherman launching his boat growled: “What a mess! Why would somebody dump a pile of dead fish at a public ramp?”

That’s a good question. A similar one was raised last summer when bow-fishermen dumped loads of dead fish at a boat ramp off the Cumberland River in northern Wilson County.

One visitor estimated there were “hundreds of pounds” of decaying fish piled around the launching ramp and boat dock. The stench, flies flocking buzzards made the public ramp and dock virtually unusable.

A nearby farmer eventually brought his front-loader tractor over and cleaned up the mess. He blamed it on bow-fishermen who launched at the ramp to go night-fishing, and at the end of the trip dumped their haul of carp, drum, buffalo and gar at the ramp.

I checked with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and was told there is no TWRA regulation against dumping dead fish in a public area. The only law it violates is whatever local ordinance exists for littering.

The TWRA spokesman said since the “littering” is done mostly at night, violators are almost impossible to catch.

In recent years bow-fishing has soared in popularity – Bass Pro Shops hosted a huge area tournament earlier this spring and has a national championship competition set for the summer.

Only rough fish can be taken by bow-fishing; shooting game fish is illegal.

Biologists say bow-fishing is a good way to control the rough fish that sometime compete with game fish in the food chain.

There’s nothing wrong with bow-fishing; it is the disposal of the fish that causes problems in some areas. The rough fish aren’t considered edible, and obviously there is no catch-and-release of fish that have been shot. So the question is what to do with a boat-load of dead fish at the end of a bow-fishing trip?

Near most lakes there are remote areas in which the fish can be disposed. They will be cleaned up fairly quickly by buzzards and other scavengers, so in isolated areas they don’t pose a problem.

But a public boat ramp is not the place to do it. Fishermen, recreational boaters and others use the ramp, and piles of decaying fish on a hot day render it almost unusable.

A spokesperson for Bass Pro Shops said an effort is underway to educate bow-fishermen about the situation and remind them to properly and ethically dispose of their catch.

Unlike the “hundreds of pounds” of dead fish that littered the Cumberland River boat ramp last summer, at Long Hunter State Park awhile back the other day there were only a dozen mid-sized carp scattered around the dock. But it takes only a few rotting fish to create a terrible mess.

Boaters understandably are raising a stink over it.

Recommended for You

    Lebanon Democrat Videos