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Entries in Asian carp (163)

Friday
Jan192018

Despite Carp, Sport Fish Thriving In Illinois River

In recent years, the Illinois River has gained notoriety for  huge numbers of Asian carp that have taken over portions of this waterway. Bigheads and silvers have crowded out native species, and the latter's tendency to jump when frightened has made boating dangerous.

But there's a bigger and better revelation about the river in general that's good news for both native species and anglers. Populations of largemouth bluegill, catfish and other sport fish are at the highest levels in more than a century.

That recovery is directly attributable to implementation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in the 1970s, according to a recent study.

“The biggest single negative change that happened to the Illinois River in the 20th century was the opening of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900,” said Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) researcher and fish biologist Daniel Gibson-Reinemer, the lead author of the study.

“After that, a lot of the untreated sewage from Chicago started flowing right down the canal and into the Des Plaines River, which is the headwaters of the Illinois River.”

Before that, the Illinois had been a remarkable resource, providing 25 percent of the total value and 15 percent of the total catch of all commercial fisheries in all rivers of the Mississippi Valley, even though it accounted for just 2.6 percent of the total length of the rivers.

But all those sewage-related nutrients spawned an overgrowth of microbes that depleted the river's oxygen, suffocating fish and other aquatic life, according to INHS aquatic ecologist Richard Sparks, a co-author of the study. A "dead zone" spread slowly from north to south, as hydrogen sulfide gas bubbled up from the bottom, bringing with it sewage fungus and other decaying matter.

INHS scientists have been studying the Illinois River since before the canal was built and, in 1957, they began to establish monitoring stations. Sparks joined the team in 1972.

“Back then, the only fish we were picking up were carp and goldfish, and it was awful seeing these fish,” he said. “They had tumors; they had eroded fins. They had various diseases, including what was called ‘pop-eye disease,’ where the eyes enlarged and just fell out of their eye sockets."

The CWA also was passed in 1972, and the slow recovery began. Since then more than $3 billion has been spent on reservoirs and tunnels in and under Chicago to capture the city's sewage and stormwater runoff. By the late 1980s, researchers saw sport fish coming back dramatically.

 “In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, very close to Chicago, about 97 percent of the fish that we caught were common carp or goldfish. Those are invasive species, they’re not native, and they’re really pollution tolerant,” Gibson-Reinemer said.

Today, those same species make up less than 3 percent of the researchers’ catch.

“If we lump all the sport fish together, we are now catching between 100 and 300 fish per hour now in those same areas, where in the 1950s and 60s, we were basically catching none,” he said.

Sparks added, “What we found in this new study would be no surprise to any biologist: If you clean up the environment, your fish and game populations will be better off.

"What is unique about this study is that, thanks to decades of research, we can document this in a scientifically robust way.”

Scientists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources also participated in this study, which received financial support from the federal Sport Fish Restoration program.

Sunday
Dec102017

B.A.S.S., Other Groups Urge Action By Corps To Protect Great Lakes

B.A.S.S., along with other hunting, angling, conservation and outdoor industry organizations, supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to prevent Asian carp from infesting the Great Lakes.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam, near Joliet, Ill., and below the Chicago Area Waterway System, is a chokepoint to reduce the risk of invasive Asian carp swimming directly into Lake Michigan. The Corps’ “Tentatively Selected Plan” (TSP) proposes a gauntlet of technologies including an electric barrier, water jets, complex sound and a flushing lock to reduce the risk of Asian carp getting through, while still allowing navigation through the lock.

“Asian carp pose one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes and the world-class smallmouth bass fishery that anglers travel from all over the country to enjoy,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. 

 “The Great Lakes are home to many invasive species. Some of those invaders have been worse than others, but just how many more can the system take before it reaches a tipping point and bad things start to happen? Bass fishermen sometimes don’t recognize invasive species as such a bad thing, especially when you talk about the Great Lakes.

“Zebra mussels and gobies, while real problems for industry and shipping, have proved to be a boon to the bass population, but nothing good can come from an Asian carp invasion. These fish have incredibly high reproductive potential, and in short order, can make up the majority of the pounds of fish a body of water can support. They filter out the plankton that is the base of the food chain for everything else, there are few markets for them and no real way to control the population explosion.”

While expressing support for the TSP, the groups in a letter also urge the Corps of Engineers to pursue full federal funding of the $275 million estimated cost, rather than require a local cost share, due to the national significance of the issue.

Additionally, the groups noted that Congress authorized the Corps to prevent aquatic invasive species transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, and therefore the Corps needs to continue pursuing a two-way solution to preventing aquatic invasive species transfer. However, that pursuit should be simultaneous without diverting resources from moving ahead with the TSP.

“Competing interests and politics-as-usual have stalled the closure of the carp pathway to Lake Michigan for too long,” said Gilliland. “It’s been studied to death, and we know what needs to be done. There is just no more time. This needs to be pushed through, or we stand to lose one of this country's greatest fisheries.”

The groups also encourage the Corps to explore Aquatic Nuisance Species treatment technology that can be used in the locks, as well as continuing other efforts to reduce the Asian carp population below the lock and dam.

The Corps issued a timeline with the release of the plan, which estimates a final report in August 2019, at which point it will be up to Congress to approve and fund the project, with a construction completion date of 2025 if there is no delay in approval and funding.

B.A.S.S. is among 50 conservation and fishing industry groups signing the letter of support. Others include the American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation and B.A.S.S. Nation organizations in Ohio and Michigan.

Tuesday
Jun062017

Mild Winter Contributed to Asian Carp Die-Off

A milder than normal winter likely was responsible for the large die-off of Asian silver carp that occurred during April in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, as well as on the nearby Ohio River.

"It appears that young Asian carp are succumbing to stressors brought on by insufficient fat storage to get the fish through the winter and spring months," reported Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Department (KFWR), crediting scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the diagnosis.

"Young, but large carp are likely most vulnerable to starvation after a warm winter because the fishes' metabolism was elevated above that of a normal, colder winter."

In other words, the fish couldn't get enough to eat, which weakened them, and made them more vulnerable to secondary stressors, such as bacterial infections that their immune systems normally would fight off.

An Asian carp die-off also occurred in 2014. But Kentucky biologist Jessica Morris said that was in just one place, below Lake Barkley, with gas bubble disease as the diagnosed cause.

"As long as only silver carp are affected (this time), we're going to say that it's a good thing, because that's helping us control the population," she added.

When anglers and boaters began reporting dead and dying fish in early April, biologists from both KFWR and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) were quick to investigate.

“The widespread die-off does not seem to be impacting other fish species, which is good news for game fish and anglers” TWRA fisheries chief Frank Fiss said early in the investigation.  “We appreciate all the reports we have received, and we want everyone to know we are aware of the die-off and are monitoring it.

“While we are trying to learn how to slow or stop their expansion, the recent die-off of thousands of fish for whatever reason has occurred naturally,” he added.

One angler on Kentucky Lake reported dead carp along the banks, as well as distressed fish "moving fast and making a wake, and they were anywhere and everywhere. Many came by the boat and a couple even banged off the trolling motor."

He also saw fish "beach themselves on the bank and that's when we noted why there were so many on the bank."

Another fisherman said the carp  were "swimming lethargically in very shallow water. Then the craziest thing happened. We saw the carp getting really close to the bank and throwing themselves onto the bank. We had never seen them do that before."

Fiss added that most fatalities seem to have been two-year-old fish, "but there are a lot of dead fish, and we are probably only seeing a tiny percentage of what actually inhabits the reservoir."

Wednesday
May172017

A Carp Is Not Just a Carp; Here's the Difference

Many people, including anglers, don't understand that we have several kinds of carp now swimming in our waters, all of them fish from other countries. And all of them problematic in one way or another.

The fish in the top photo is a common carp. It was introduced more than a century ago, with the help of the federal government. It's now in lakes and rivers all over this country, and has degraded water quality in many of them, mostly because it roots on the bottom and stirs up sediment.  State agencies sometimes use a rotenone treatment to wipe out a lake's fishery, primarily because of overpopulation by common carp. When someone says "carp," this is the fish that most people think of.

Grass carp (that's me with an illegally stocked grass carp) were first introduced during the 1960s, to help control aquatic vegetation, mostly exotic milfoil and hydrilla. The problem is that they eat ALL plants, including beneficial native vegetation. Some have escaped and are reproducing in our rivers. More recently, there's concern that they might establish a breeding population in the Great Lakes. They're far too easy to purchase and stock illegally by people who have no idea of the problems that they cause.

Finally, Asian carp. That description applies to both silver (top) and bighead carp. The silver carp is the one that you see so many photos of as it flies through the air. Both are growing larger here than in their native habitat, with bigheads now exceeding 100 pounds. These are the most recent introductions, brought in by fish farmers in the South. They escaped and now are outcompeting native fish for food and habitat in many of our major rivers, most notably, the Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio. In some places, they account for more than 95 percent of the biomass. There's concern that they, too, will establish breeding populations in the Great Lakes.

Thursday
May112017

Grass Carp Invasion Also Threatens Great Lakes Fisheries

 

While silver and bighead are the Asian carp of most concern these days for the Great Lakes, a third species has quietly been making inroads and is a growing worry for fisheries scientists in both the United States and Canada.

"For the first time, we have a binational, peer-reviewed study by some of the best minds and practitioners in the field who have a consensus on what the risk is to the Great Lakes from grass carp, and it's pretty substantial," said Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The vegetation eaters, which could decimate wetlands and aquatic grasses, have been found in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Michigan. And, according to researchers, at least some of these invaders are reproducing.

"They've just been humming in the background," he added. "They haven't gotten a lot of attention. Once in a while one would get captured."

In fact, 23 have been caught in Canada since 2012, including five in Lake Ontario at Toronto, according to Becky Cudmore of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"Right now, the sterile fish outnumber the fertile fish. This isn't game over, but we are finding more of these fertile fish."

How did they get into the Great Lakes? Possibly through the manmade connection between the Illinois River and Lake Chicago, before electric barriers were erected. Introduced in the early 1960s to control invasive aquatic plants, they been around far longer than their more notorious cousins.

Likely too, some were introduced either intentionally or by accident. Unlike with silver and bighead, grass carp are easy to acquire and have been introduced illegally into both private and public waters by people who don't understand the consequences.

"Our assessment is saying that yes, they were showing up before, but now they're starting the invasion process," Cudmore said. "They have arrived. Now is the time to act."