While we have been looking one way, Asian carp have been swimming in another.
For years, most media, scientific, and political attention was focused on the threat that silver and bighead carp pose to sport fisheries if they become established in the Great Lakes. Meanwhile, some of these invaders took at right turn at the Ohio River, and their numbers now are exploding in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, even as they continue their infestation of other fisheries along the Cumberland and Tennessee River. What's occurring here is not hypothetical; it's real.
In the October issue of B.A.S.S. Times, I'll have a detailed report on what's happening to these fisheries and what might be done to save them. Following are some comments about the situation from anglers, as well as the fisheries chiefs in Kentucky and Tennessee
"When I was on Kentucky Lake in June, they (Asian carp) were everywhere, hitting the surface on the ledges. You could look down and see schools of them. Kentucky Lake is doomed in the very near future."
"Yep, they are thick in Kentucky Lake, but people don't see them jumping like in other areas. But I see them all the time on my sonar and Steve had one jump into his boat and hit him in the back a few years ago."
"Yesterday i went to Smithland. The 4-inch Asian carp are 15 feet thick in places next to the dam in the still water and are so plentiful around the bank area that they are actually jumping up on each other and lying there out of the water."
"Fishing as we know it is winding down! Not one striper at any of the dams right now!"
"The two species of Asian carp that we are most concerned about right now because of their numbers are the bighead and silver carp," said Ron Brooks, Kentucky fisheries chief.
"Silver carp eat phytoplankton. Bighead eat primarily zooplankton, and, together, the two species threaten the very base of the aquatic food pyramid. By eating phytoplankton, silver carp reduce the amount of food available to many zooplankton species, which reduces the amount of zooplankton. Bighead forage on zooplankton, which also reduces the amount of zooplankton . . .
"Without sufficient densities of zooplankton available shortly after hatching, bass, crappie, bluegill, and even walleye would have poor survival into the juvenile phase of their lives. That is why we are most concerned about controlling the invasive carp numbers."
"We have had several inquiries from a few Chinese businessmen but nothing has developed so far. We have also had one group from Tennessee that has been exploring the possibility of constructing a processing plant but they are still looking for a source of funding (10 to 12 million dollars)," said Bobby Wilson, Tennessee fisheries chief.
"However, with the three (plants) in Kentucky, there is a market for harvesting Asian carp in Tennessee waters. There is a need to coordinate the harvest of Asian carp by commercial fishermen with the purchase of Asian carp by the fish processors. We are working to try to make that happen."