Bow hunters sharpen arrow heads for koi carp cull
Draw the bow and let the arrow fly - it's carp hunting time.
Waikato's orange tide of koi carp will be in the sights of bow hunters again in the 2016 World Koi Carp Classic.
And while it's good fun, the organiser of the 27th annual event, Allan Metcalfe, said it's good for the environment. Koi carp erode Waikato lake edges and river banks.
"They are a bit like a rabbit. They can burrow under the banks and next thing you have trees falling into the river because they have been undermined," Metcalfe said.
The ornamental koi carp, a native of Asia and Europe, are designated as noxious and an unwanted species in New Zealand.
They like shallow, warm water and hang by the edges, feeding on aquatic vegetation and stirring up silt.
The cousin to the koi, the rare and big grass carp, are also in the sights of hunters, however, research from NIWA and the Ministry of Primary Industries suggests grass carp are sterile in the wild.
"The biggest grass carp we got was 52lb (23kg) and that was a metre and a half long. You don't often see them but when you do, they are quite a hard fish to get in because they are so large."
Rain and recent high river levels saw the lower reaches of the Waikato River inundated and koi carp greedily foraging in flooded paddocks.
There is even a fishy tale of carp eating lettuces at flooded market gardens, Metcalfe said.
"Unfortunately, the river levels are dropping but when the levels are right up, the guys are shooting hundreds just in the paddocks."
Eighty bow hunters hauled a massive 8.5 tonnes of the pest fish in the 2015 competition and Metcalfe said there are plenty more for another go.
"We like to get into them because a female carp will have a million eggs and they will spawn three times in the summer so one fish can lay 3 million eggs."
Interest in the koi carp hunt has fluctuated over the years and in July, the event was looking down the barrel of a cancellation.
In the US, carp shooting competitions are big business with prizes of boats and money in the vicinity of $25,000. Not so in the Waikato competition, held on the last weekend of October, Metcalfe said.
"What we try and do is have a lot of small prizes so everybody gets something. You don't actually have to shoot a fish as long as you pay the entry fee."
He has a few quick tips for the novice. The fish is closer than it looks and it pays to aim low.
"Ninety per cent of the time, if you are aiming straight at it, you will go straight over the top."
And prepare to get wet and muddy.
"It's all about clarity in the water," he said.
"Wind and rain make it a bit hard to see but when they are spawning - that's why we run the carp shoot this time of year - they are quite often splashing, their backs are out of the water."