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Entries in Asian carp (165)


Giant Black Carp Caught in Mississippi River

This 120-pound black carp was caught in Bangladesh.A  recent catch by a commercial fisherman confirms that a third species of Asian carp capable of topping 100 pounds is infesting our waterways.

The 115-pound female black carp was taken near Cape Girardeau, Mo., on the Mississippi River. In 2011, an angler snagged a 106-pound bighead while fishing for paddlefish at Lake of the Ozarks, and a bass fisherman later foul-hooked an equally massive silver carp on Kentucky Lake. In their native waters, neither of the latter two species typically grow that large. The black, however, can attain weights of 200 pounds or more.

The Mississippi River black carp was donated to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and researchers hope that its study will help reveal information regarding the species potential range,  as well as reproductive and size potential.

“I wanted to get a look at it because it’s much bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. I’m curious to find out all we can," said Gregory Whitledge, an associate professor of zoology. "We knew they were capable of growing this big, but this is one that is large enough that it is still quite an event."

As with bighead and silver, the black carp was brought into this country by fish farmers and escaped into public waters. While the former are algae/plankton feeders, the black eats mollusks. It was introduced to control parasite-carrying snails in aquaculture ponds.

The first wild black carp were caught in the Mississippi during the early 2000s. But during the past five years, commercial fishermen have reported catching increasing numbers of them in nets along with the native fish they are seeking.


State Attorneys General Want Closure To Keep Carp Out Of Great Lakes

Attorneys general for Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania believe that the Army Corps of Engineers plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes is flawed because it disregards the cheapest, quickest, and most effective solution: Closing the manmade connection between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River system.

"We strongly disagree with the Corps’ conclusion that the Tentatively Selected Plan, which would retrofit the Brandon Road Lock and Dam with a combination of technologies intended to deter the movement of Asian carp, is the best option for meeting the stated goal of the feasibility study mandated by Congress," said  Michigan's Bill Schuette, Minnesota's Lori Swanson, and Pennsylvania's Josh Shapiro in a formal letter commenting on the Corps' strategy. 

"Instead . . .  we urge the Corps to select and implement what the Draft Report itself identifies as the most effective option – closing the Brandon Road Lock."

Closing the lock, the attorney generals argue, would cost about $5.9 million, compared to the $275 million for creating a "flushing lock" that would take years to complete.

Strongest resistance for that option has come from inland barge operators and the state of Illinois, who say closure would hinder commercial navigation and increase shipping costs. Environmental groups, meanwhile, have shown only mild support for the lock redesign, which allows for a 10 to 17 percent chance that Asian carp could get through it and invade the Great Lakes.

The attorney generals also argue that the Corps' strategy doesn't adequately address the ecological and economic costs to the Great Lakes states if Asian carp become established.

"Even if such costs of establishment cannot be precisely quantified, it is evident that they will be at least an order of magnitude greater than any plausible estimate of increased transportation costs," they said.

"For example, one of the many public values provided by the Great Lakes that are at risk if Asian carp become established--- the recreational sport fishery--- has, standing alone, an annual economic value of billions of dollars.

"Moreover, the Corps' simplistic and unbalanced economic analysis fails to consider that the harm from establishment of Asian carp in the Great Lakes will be permanent and irreversible."


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.


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.


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."