A recent study by University of Notre Dame researchers suggests that consequences of an Asian carp invasion into the Great Lakes may not be as catastrophic as many fear.
“If bighead and silver carp were to establish in Lake Erie, local fish biomass is not likely to change beyond observations recorded in the last three decades,” the university said in a press release about the findings.
Scientists pointed out, however, that the study mainly highlights the uncertainty, adding that the walleye population could decrease by as little as 10 percent or as much as 40.
“The range of possibilities concerning walleye biomass shows that the potential effect to this species is highly uncertain,” said Roger Cooke, one of the study’s authors.
But what’s happening right now in Kentucky Lake and many more of the nation’s bass fisheries along major rivers is not theory. It’s reality. The exotic fish are there in massive numbers. For example, a first-of-its kind commercial tournament on Barkley and Kentucky Lakes last year netted 82,953 pounds of bighead and silver carp --- that’s more than 40 tons--- in just two days.
And this reality does not bode well for the future of sport fishing.
“If we don’t do something, bass fishing will be over with in five to ten years. You won’t be able to run a bass boat on many of these waters,” said J.D. Johnson, owner of Gulf Pride Seafood.
“If people don’t wake up, we might as well hang it up.”
Working with Carp Management Group of America LLC, Johnson is at the forefront of an effort to garner both angler and financial support for commercial harvest of carp. And he’s not alone.
B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland also supports the effort, as do fisheries chiefs in Kentucky and Tennessee.
“Fishermen need to get behind this idea of commercial netting,” Gilliland said. “It’s the only viable solution until someone develops a magic pill.”
“We have to do something now before our lakes and rivers become so over-populated with Asian carp that our native fish never will be able to make a comeback,” said Tennessee’s Bobby Wilson.
“We may not be able to eliminate Asian carp by this method. But the goal is to reduce their numbers so that they will not have a significant impact on our native species of fish.”
Kentucky’s Ron Brooks added that the carp pose a dire threat to “the very base of the aquatic food pyramid” because they feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton, primary forage for newborn bass, crappie, and other sport fish.
The invaders pose that threat because of their massive appetites and huge numbers. A carp eats 5 to 20 percent of its body weight each day as it grows to an average weight of 30 to 40 pounds. A female can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at a time, and she can do so multiple times annually.
Even knowing all this, however, some bass anglers likely are shaking their heads and saying that they don’t want nets in their waters. But Gilliland said commercial harvest does not harm sport fisheries --- even when gillnets are used.
Most significantly, however, gillnets aren’t the best way to harvest Asian carp, according to Johnson. “We call it ‘strike fishing’ and we’ve done it for years with mullet,” he said.
Schooling fish are encircled by net, driven inward, and quickly harvested. No nets are left unattended to snag whatever swims by.
“I can put 900 feet of net down to 200 feet in less than a minute,” Johnson said.
He added that he could send 575 metric tons of carp to Asian each year, if only the facilities were available to process them. Right now, though, harvested carp are used mostly for fertilizer and silage, and that’s not profitable enough to sustain an aggressive commercial fishery.
“In Tennessee, things are moving at a snail’s pace regarding commercial harvest, processing, and marketing of Asian carp,” Wilson said.
“Funding is the major issue, as it is with almost every venture.
“We know that commercial fishermen can catch them, and we know that there is a market for them overseas, as well as within the United States. The missing pieces are the processing plants and the price per pound for commercial fishermen.”
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)
Once again the huge fish bulled for deeper water. And once again I pumped and reeled to regain line.
If frogs croaked or birds sang on this cool evening in early fall, I didn’t hear them. The only sounds that I remember are the “Whap! Whap! Whap!” of the monster’s broad tail as it slapped the surface of the still, shallow water, and the “Zsst! Zsst! Zsst!” of the drag on my spinning reel as it protected my 12-pound line from breaking.
The fight lasted 15 minutes at least, probably more. I knew that I had to weaken the grass carp to have any chance of wrestling it ashore, but I also realized how perilous our connection, with light line and small hook. That’s why I eased off on the drag each time I brought it close to my dock. At close range, one hard headshake from a fish that size, even a tired one, would part the line.
Finally, I judged it ready to be landed, knelt on one knee, held the rod with my right hand and scooped with my left. Only my net was far too small to get much more than its head in it. And as I belatedly realized that, a barb on the little treble snagged in the mesh. Now, a foot or so below the side of the dock, I had the huge carp half in and half out of the net, and there was no way I could lift the fish with one hand, even if it all did fit.
Suddenly, the once tired fish became manic, thrashing wildly, and I all but acknowledged that I had lost the fight. I was certain that the line would break as the carp jerked against the resistance of the hook embedded in the net.
But I pushed the net as deep as I could, and the fish bolted farther into it instead of away from it. Nearly simultaneously, I dropped the rod, grabbed the handle with both hands and heaved.
And finally there it was, a 40-pound-plus grass carp half in and half out of the net on my dock. Somehow, someway, I had managed to land the beast with a net that likely was better suited for butterflies than fish of this size.
I know that it was 40 plus because it was far heavier than my previous best, which had bottomed out a 30-pound scale.
During the nine years that I’ve lived on this 10-acre semi-private lake, I’ve caught about 20 of the illegally stocked grass carp, which have suppressed the bass, bluegill, and catfish populations and degraded the water quality.
Aquatic vegetation never has been a problem in this normally clear, spring-fed lake, but ignorant property owners stocked the carp, thinking that they were filter feeders that would improve the water quality. One of them actually told me that. In truth, grass carp are the equivalent of aquatic cows, adding to the nutrient load as they grow to massive size, and contributing to algae blooms as they stir up the bottom.
But they are fun to catch, fighting a lot like big redfish, and I’ve perfected the technique --- at least for my little lake. I fish only for the carp that I can see. Once I’ve spotted one, I toss a bread ball under a bobber in front of it. Sometimes, I have to increase the depth of the bait to get the fish to take. Last night, I had to do that three times.
When I go back out there this evening to look for the three others that saw with the one that I caught, I should have it at the proper depth on the first try.
And I will have a larger net.
To read about the 30-pound carp that I caught and learn more about why grass carp generally are bad news for sport fisheries, go here. I'm not suggesting that grass carp can't be used to manage aquatic vegetation in certain circumstances, but they're tools that only fisheries biologists should consider.
“Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of the time immersed up to the thighs in ice-cold water.” --- Author Unknown
“If our father had his say, nobody who did not know how to catch a fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.” Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
“When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.” --- Mark Twain
“The season is ended. There was not enough of it; there never is.” Nick Lyons
With little recognition and fanfare, a small Kentucky company arguably has engineered the most significant improvement in fish care since invention of the livewell.
Thus far, sales have been mostly to individuals, but two boat companies, Storm and Stroker, now are making factory installations and talks are ongoing with others, according to Judy Tipton, inventor of the V-T2 ventilation system and owner of New Pro Products.
“This is the first year that we have approached distributors and retail stores to add the V-T2 to their product lines,” she added. “I am happy to report that we are now entering into vendor relationships and working with boat manufacturers to include the V-T2 as a factory standard.”
Why are more than 3,000 anglers around the world now using this inexpensive product and why should manufacturers, distributors and retailers take note? How about endorsement from Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S.
“It’s such a simple device, with no moving parts and no power required,” he said. “That’s what makes it so cool. It just works.”
Plenty of testimonials from anglers confirm that.
“In Oklahoma, we frequently fish in air temperatures of 100 degrees plus and waters of 90 degrees plus,” said tournament angler Charles Parker. “Before installing the V-T2 system, we would have a burst of hot air hit us when opening the livewell lids.
“The V-T2 has alleviated this issue and definitely keeps the livewells cooler and fish healthier. In the three years that I have used it, I have not lost a single fish . . . and when I got my new boat this spring, the V-T2 was the first thing that I added to it.”
Brian Fisher, a member of the U.S. Air Force, added this: “While I was living in South Texas, I had several tournaments where I carried coolers of ice or frozen water bottles to help with keeping fish alive.
“Once I overcame my fear of cutting a hole in my livewell lids and installed the V-T2s, this was no longer necessary. My livewell remained cooler and the fish had no problem remaining healthy. This product is the standard in fish care.”
And FLW competitor Phil Jarabek explained that “when you see the science behind it, everything about it makes sense. A lot of people are putting them on their boats once they see it in use and how easy it is to mount.”
Sold as a pair in black or white for about $45, each V-T2 is inserted in a livewell lid. Once installed, it is flush with the floor, requires almost no maintenance, and allows continuous fresh air into the previously sealed compartments. That air increases dissolved oxygen, helps moderate temperature, and assists with removal of metabolic wastes and gases.
“The V stands for ‘ventilation. The T2 means ‘times 2.’ In developing the V-T2, the initial design was to allow heat and metabolic gases to naturally rise out of the livewell through the process of passive air,” explained Tipton.
“But it was soon apparent that running the boat could utilize ram air (air flow created by a moving object) to cool, oxygenate, and de-gas the livewell at an even greater rate. So, I incorporated a front and back louver with a dividing wall to create continuous flow of air in the livewell. It ventilates your livewell in two distinct ways, thus the name V-T2.”
Gilliland calls that “a great concept.”
During his career as a fisheries biologist, he explained, he learned that venting a livewell can “make a huge difference in the efficiency of an aerator system.
“If you keep the lids closed and run your recirculating aerators, you are recirculating stale air and C02. Your system is not doing what it is supposed to do.”
Additionally, he said, livewells quickly heat up from sun-warmed carpet and metal. But ventilation helps keep temperatures moderated.
And it means fishermen are more likely to notice if their aerators stop running than they would with a closed system. That’s because the V-T2 lets the sound out.
Tipton’s own experience as a tournament angler guided her in development of the ventilation system.
“No matter what I did, our fish never were as healthy when the temperatures started rising,” she remembered. “In 1988, while fishing a tournament on the Ohio River in May, I caught a nice bass, and, as I lifted the lid to place the fish in the livewell, I was met with a rush of hot air. This was the first indication that this buildup of heat and metabolic gases could be harmful to fish.”
Also, she noticed that tournament-caught fish often nosed back into the bank when released. “Having studied biology in college, I knew right off that this was a sign of oxygen deprivation,” she said. “The greatest concentration of oxygen in a lake is in the shallowest water, where the atmosphere and water meet at the point of diffusion.”
Eventually, she realized that closed livewells hold heat and metabolic gases and shut out atmospheric oxygen.
“It was obvious that summer heat didn’t hurt fish in the lakes, but they did struggle once placed in the livewell,” she said, adding that she wanted to make the livewell environment more like the lake.
“Also, the product had to work without angler participation, require no batter power, not let water splash out, not cause a tripping hazard, and look good.
“I often hear from anglers that the V-T2 is so simple, and this makes me smile because a lot of effort, work, study, and testing went into its development.”
Now Tipton is directing effort at getting out the word about this revolutionary innovation.
“I really hope she can make inroads with the boat manufacturers so that they can be installed at the factories,” Gilliland said. “They wouldn’t add significantly to cost or hurt the strength and integrity of the livewells.
“Manufacturers already are making good livewells, but the V-T2 easily could become a standard.”
(This article appeared originally in Fishing Tackle Retailer.)