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Shooting fish in a lake

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | May 24, 2022 1:58 PM

MOSES LAKE — Sean Manderville reached into the big, blue plastic barrel sitting in his boat and pulled out a carp.

As Manderville raised the yellowish-orange fish, it glistened in the late afternoon sunlight, dripping bloody water. It’s huge, this Moses Lake carp, almost as long as Manderville’s arm, and it weighs about 23.5 pounds.

Manderville stood in his boat, which sat on a trailer pulled by a pickup truck — one of 38 boats that launched out into Moses Lake on Saturday, May 21, for the third annual Moses Lake Carp Classic — and tossed the rest of his fish into a bucket to be weighed, each giant fish making a squishy thud as they land.

The Ephrata native will only describe the day’s bowfishing as “all right.” But by weight, Manderville and his wife Karla caught the most fish, shooting 172.4 pounds of Moses Lake carp.

Manderville, who said he’s been bowfishing carp for about five years, is a man of few words when he describes what he loves about this sport.

“It's just fun,” he grinned. “You get to go out and just relax and kill stuff.”

A lot of lake carp were killed on Saturday — 203, according to official count kept by shoot organizer Ty Swarthout, amounting to about 3,000 pounds of the bottom feeders, the largest coming in at 29.4 pounds — but Swarthout will be the first to admit that number hardly even begins to deal with the lake’s carp problem.

“It won’t make a dent,” he said, shaking his head.

Swarthout conceived of the carp classic a few years ago, not long after moving to Moses Lake, as a way to help try and deal with the blue-green algae blooms that have occasionally plagued the lake. Carp are an invasive species few people in the United States eat anymore, and as bottom feeders, they stir up the phosphorus-rich sediments on the bottom of Moses Lake that end up providing nutrients to the algae.

It contributes a little, and draws people to Moses Lake who might not otherwise come, Swarthout said. The parking lot of Connelly Park was filled with license plates from Idaho, and at least one from Montana, while a fair number of carp hunters made their way to Moses Lake from the West Side. Boats filled the lake around the Connelly Park boat launch, roaring into life at 7 a.m. as Swarthout proclaimed the tournament under way.

While the weather was good in Moses Lake last Saturday — the skies were clear with a slight breeze — Swarthout said it could have been warmer, because carp are more active in warmer water, and the winds earlier in the week put the whole endeavor at risk.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” he said. “We’re ecstatic with this. Hopefully they’ll all shoot a bunch of fish.”

“This is the first tournament I’ve ever done,” said Dallas Wells, a Vancouver resident who said he’s been carp shooting for nearly six years. “We’re looking to do more because there’s a few more coming.”

Wells, who has spent some time and money upgrading his boat with the platform needed to most effectively hunt carp, said he had a slow day, only catching six of the monsters for a total of 89 pounds.

“It’s been a cold start to the year,” he said.

Carp aren’t so much fished as they are hunted, with anglers standing attentively atop their boats with a bow and arrow waiting for the fish to make an appearance. A string secured to the arrow allows them to haul in the fish, which are then tossed in a big plastic bucket.

“I just started and it’s kind of addicting,” said Ephrata native Sydnee Pixlee. “It takes a lot of skill and a lot of patience. A lot of patience. Sometimes you don’t see a fish for a couple of hours.”

“And then you see a fish and it’s game on,” she added.

Even though no one really eats carp anymore, these fish aren’t going to waste. After each bowfisher’s catch is counted and weighed, the fish are tossed into giant blue plastic boxes, where Randy Morlock, a commercial crawdad fisherman in Portland, Ore., packs them in ice.

“We use this for bait,” Morlock said. “We cut ’em up and put about a half-pound in a trap and catch crawfish.”

Morlock said he uses about 6,000 pounds of carp a month as bait, so the Saturday catch from Moses Lake won’t go very far. Most of the crawdads he catches are examined and dissected by high school and college students in biology labs, Morlock explained.

“I think some people eat them,” Morlock added. “They’re a lot of work for what you get out of them, but some people really like them.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

By the numbers:

Largest carp: 29.4 pounds, caught by Colby Myers, Trever Gibson & Christian Ellinger.

Largest haul: 172.40 pounds by Sean and Karla Manderville and John Wall.

Most carp caught: 23 by Alex and Victor Mendoza.

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Courtesy Ty Swarthout

A bowfisher takes aim at a carp during last Saturday’s Moses Lake Carp Classic, which saw fishers from across the Pacific Northwest catch over 200 of the invasive pests.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Some of the 38 boats getting ready to hunt carp on Moses Lake last Saturday morning during the Moses Lake Carp Classic.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Moses Lake Carp Classic organizer and avid sportsman Ty Swarthout on his boat Saturday during the carp tournament. While Swarthout has started carp hunting — done with a bow and arrow — he stayed on the sidelines for the tournament.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native and avid carp shooter Sidnee Pixlee waits on her boat with her dog Nala prior to the start of the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native and avid carp shooter Sidnee Pixlee waits on her boat with her dog Nala prior to the start of the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native Sean Manderville tosses a carp he caught into a bucket to be weighed. Manderville, a long-time carp shooter, caught the largest fish at the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday, a monster weighing nearly 30 pounds.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native Sean Manderville tosses a carp he caught into a bucket to be weighed. Manderville, a long-time carp shooter, caught the largest fish at the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday, a monster weighing nearly 30 pounds.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native Sean Manderville tosses a carp he caught into a bucket to be weighed. Manderville, a long-time carp shooter, caught the largest fish at the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday, a monster weighing nearly 30 pounds.

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Ephrata native Sean Manderville tosses a carp he caught into a bucket to be weighed. Manderville, a long-time carp shooter, caught the largest fish at the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday, a monster weighing nearly 30 pounds.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Ephrata native Sean Manderville tosses a carp he caught into a bucket to be weighed. Manderville, a long-time carp shooter, caught the largest fish at the Moses Lake Carp Classic on Saturday, a monster weighing nearly 30 pounds.

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald

Dallas Wells, a bowfisher from Vancouver, Washington holds up a carp he shot in Moses Lake on Saturday during the Moses Lake Carp Classic. Wells, who has been bowfishing carp for the last six years, said this year’s carp classic was his first tournament. The carp classic was organized to help clear out some of Moses Lake’s carp and improve water quality. For more details, check out the Wednesday edition of the Columbia Basin Herald.

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