Fish are friends, not projectiles: Crew team bombarded by Asian carp

| Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University crew team has achieved national notoriety, and all it took was a few flying fish.

On Friday night, junior Ben Rosenbaum, captain of the men’s varsity squad, uploaded a video of the Freshman 8 boat being swarmed by leaping Asian carp during morning practice to YouTube and CNN iReport. The story was first reported on by CNN, but quickly spread across the Internet, garnering the attention of both local and national media outlets.

feeshBecca Christman | Student Life

“I didn’t anticipate it getting as much viral coverage as it has,” Rosenbaum said. “I’ve been asked to share the video with several other news agencies: ESPN, CNN, NBC, all the local stations in St. Louis, international BBC, Australian media outlets, so it’s quite an extensive reach.”

Given the comedic nature of the video, each station attempted to add their own humorous spin with headlines such as “Flying carp attack rowing team” from ESPN and “These Freshmen Rowers Got Attacked By Flying Asian Carp And It Was The Ultimate Hazing” from Buzzfeed.

The incident occurred early Friday morning as the Bears wrapped up their final practice of the week at Creve Coeur Lake. As the majority of the team worked on land to prepare their racing shells for an upcoming regatta in St. Charles, Illinois, the Freshman 8 boat, under the direction of freshman coxswain Ashley Kim, worked their way towards the dock. At first, only a few fish leaped from the water, but soon the entire area around the racing shell was frothing with silvery projectiles.

“It was a lot of chaos and the most we could do was let the boat sit and just wait for the fish to finish passing,” Kim said.

Rosenbaum first realized what was about to transpire while he was helping to load boats onto the team’s trailer.

“I saw a couple of fish start to jump and I had an idea of what was about to happen,” Rosenbaum said, “so I went down to the docks with my phone, and I was able to film the freshman when they came in.”

A veteran rower on Creve Coeur Lake, Rosenbaum witnessed a similar event in 2013. It was his quick thinking with the camera that allowed the Bears to receive national coverage.

Asian Carp are notorious in the Midwestern United States for their leaping displays. Sometimes growing up to 100 lbs., these fish when airborne have been known to cause concussions and broken bones. As the boat passed through the school, one of the carp struck freshman Jamie Fuhrman in the back and landed in the boat. Fuhrman was not harmed.

“The rowers were not injured although they were pretty frightened,” Rosenbaum said.

The racing shell also escaped permanent harm although there is still a lingering odor.

“There was no damage; it just smelled like fish,” Kim said.

There was a degree of foreshadowing earlier in the morning when a small number of carp leaped around the freshman 8 boat during their normal drills. One intrepid fish managed to jump inside the racing shell and was promptly tossed out without further incident.

While the spectacle was unexpected, the Bears have benefited from it. Rosenbaum should receive an amount of money yet to be determined from the assorted media coverage over the past week. That money will be donated to the team and used to fund their efforts to reach the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship regatta in the near future.  

Next weekend the Bears will send a men’s varsity eight, men’s varsity four, freshman men’s four, varsity women’s four and the same freshman men’s eight that was bombarded last Friday to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships. While there, they will attempt to avoid disturbing any more aquatic wildlife.

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