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Entries in Asian carp (138)

Friday
Oct172014

Ground Zero for Asian Carp Invasion

Havana, Ill., is Ground Zero for the Asian carp invasion, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. On the Illinois River, it’s about 200 miles south of Lake Michigan and 120 miles north of the Mississippi.

“You find more carp per acre, per mile of river, tan nearly anyplace else in the world,” says Kevin Irons, DNR’s Asian carp program director.

If you doubt that, check out this video.

Based on electrofishing surveys, bighead and silver carp now account for about 60 percent of the fish biomass in that stretch of the river. That means native species have declined dramatically because the exotics outcompete them for food and habitat.

And peaceful boat rides are a thing of the past because of silver carp, which go airborne when startled.

“People have been hit and seriously injured,” says DNR’s Matt O’Hara. “I know there have been some cases of broken noses and jaws.

“Pretty distressing when you come out here and you’re looking for native fish, and all you see is invasive Asian carp,” he adds.

Wednesday
Oct012014

Commercial Fishing Is Ally for Anglers in Battle Against Asian Carp

Kentucky Lake Asian carp. Photo by Steve McCadams

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.)

Wednesday
Sep032014

Dirk Encourages Anglers to Sink Teeth into Asian Carp Problem

Dirk grills Asian carp burgers.

Dirk Fucik has no illusions that he can turn back the Asian carp invasion that threatens the Great Lakes. But by making, selling, and even offering free samples of “carp burgers,” his Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago has been encouraging fellow anglers and others to slow the spread of these exotic species one bite at a time.

“We have been promoting the eating of Asian carp for about five years now,” said Fucik, a longtime member of B.A.S.S.

“We give out free samples every week at the shop, have worked with Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Army Corp of Engineers to give away carp burgers at the Taste of Chicago, and we are partnered with the Shedd Aquarium in promoting the use of Asian carp.

“It’s a great-eating fish,” he added. “We just have to get past the bones and the stigma of carp.”

At Taste of Chicago, an annual food festival, Fucik typically gives away 800 burgers in two hours, with 90 percent of those who try them approving.

“When Americans think of carp, they think of German carp,” he said. “And that fish is a bottom feeder. It is a dark-fleshed meat, and it’s strong in flavor and bony.”

By contrast, Asian carp are plankton eaters, and their meat is white, resembling cod. But they are bony. To solve that problem, Fucik extracted the large bones and then ran the meat and small bones through a meat grinder.

“It’s similar to burger meat,” he said.

And at about $6 a pound, it’s much cheaper than salmon burgers at $18.

“We should all embrace the use of Asian carp for food purposes,” he said. “It is a great lean, low-fat protein and, being a problem invasive species, eating it is a great solution.”

Asian carp burgers with tomato jalapeno chutney.

Dirk's  Carp Burgers:

2 pounds Asian carp fillets, ground
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs( this is optional)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 teaspoons dry oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
4 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients except panko crumbs. Grind the fish twice to make sure there are no more bones and to blend the spices. Add panko crumbs and form into patties or choose not to use breading. The burgers will be a little softer but just handle with care.

If you want to add cheese, use a soft cheese. Form a small ball of cheese and insert into the center of the burger. Form the burger around the cheese.

Cook for about 5 minutes per side on a hot grill, the cheese will start leaking out when they are almost done.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
May282014

How About Hippos?

If you think that we’ve made a mess of our lands and waters through intentional and unintentional import of exotic plants and animals, you are correct. For example, we now spend billions of dollars annually to control and mitigate the damage done by just four recently introduced species: bighead carp, silver carp, quagga mussel, and zebra mussel.

And in attempts to minimize problems, the government often has made them worse. During the 1940s, the state of Louisiana touted the South American nutria as a way to control water hyacinth, a fast-growing exotic that was crowding out native vegetation in wetlands. Today, the nutria is eating away those same wetlands, contributing to saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion.

In the early 1960s, the states of Alabama and Arkansas allowed import of grass carp to control aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds. By 1970, escapees had established populations in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Today, these troublesome grazers are established in at least nine states and have been sighted in more than 40. Ask just about any bass angler, and he will tell you that the grass carp is public enemy No. 1.

And speaking of carp, we have the federal government to thank for one of the worst management decisions ever in regard to our fisheries. In 1877, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began intensively cultivating and stocking common carp. In fairness, it was prompted to do so both by public pressure and by overharvest of native fish stocks. By the turn of the century, however, it already was regarded as a nuisance.

“Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp,” says the National Park Service.

But you don’t know the half of it. Actually, things could be worse. Much worse. Instead of nutria eating away those Louisiana wetlands, we could have hippos. And who’s to say that these massive “water horses” which can weigh up to 4 tons and eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation a day, wouldn’t have spread east, west, and north?

They are “relatively tolerant of cold conditions,” says the Glen Oak Zoo, which also points out that “many individuals live to 40 years.”

Oh yeah, they also are generally believed to have killed more people in their native Africa than another animal, including lions and crocodiles.

All things considered, I’ll take the nutria, thank you. It tops out at about 12 pounds and is not as likely to charge me at the launch ramp.

But in 1910, Frederick Russell Burnham, a famed American scout and world adventurer, proposed replacing our nation’s depleted wildlife population --- we had hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo nearly to extinction --- with animals that he had encountered in southern Africa.

His proposal lined up nicely with the search for a solution to the growing problem of water hyacinths in Louisiana waters, as well as America’s need for more meat. Writing about this little known piece of American history, Jon Mooallem in American Hippopotamus, says that Rep. of Robert Foligny of New Iberia “liked to plug up problems with big solutions.”

Thus, Foligny introduced H.R. 23261, also known as the “Hippo Bill,” to “appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” The Washington Post assured readers that they would see shipments of hippos within a few years.

Fortunately for all us, a boatload of hippos never docked in New Orleans. But it wasn’t because of the unexpected discovery of good judgment in Congress. Rather, one representative said that the beasts should not be introduced because unscrupulous hunters would sneak onto the farms and hunt them for trophies.

Yeah, that’s the reason not to import aggressive animals that boast 20-inch teeth and can run at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.

What turned the tide, though, was that the Department of Agriculture decided to transform swamps and other undeveloped areas into agricultural land to grow more beef cattle.

Thank goodness. Otherwise, we might we watching “Hippo Die-Nasty” instead of “Duck Dynasty” on television.

(This column was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Apr042014

Minnesota Politicians Get Tough on 'Asian' Carp

Congratulations to Minnesota politicians for serving as a shining example to the rest of the nation, as they deal with the most critical issue related to decimation of our waterways by Asian carp.

What is that issue? How can you ask such an inconsiderate question!

Of course it’s designating a new name for the exotic invaders so that no one is offended. During this utopian era of political correctness, when some want to ban the word “bossy,” what more noble endeavor could there be for those paid by taxpayers?

“Caucasians brought them to America,” said John Hoffman, a Democrat state senator who is sponsoring the bill. “Should we call them ‘Caucasian carp’? They have names. Let’s call them what they are.”

The executive director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans added that the term “Asian carp” will cause people to “reflect negatively on our community.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), meanwhile, testified that her agency was unaware of any comments from the public that “Asian carp” is offensive.

Those folks at DNR should be ashamed of themselves. They should have been on top of this months ago, as should legislatures in other states where these insensitively named invaders are destroying fisheries.

Don’t they know it’s not about whether people are offended? It’s about an obsessive need for government to eliminate the slightest possibility that people might be offended.

As soon as the enlightened Minnesota politicians force DNR to start referring to Asian carp as “invasive carp,” then they could get to work on renaming Eurasian watermilfoil, a troublesome exotic plant that has spread into many state waters. That threatens to offend people of not only Asian descent, but European as well.

And I don’t even want to think about how the zebras in Como Park Zoo in St. Paul must be suffering because of those inappropriately named mussels.

And here are some other offensive names of exotic species that we must get rid of, never mind that they simply are named after geographic areas from which they originated:

African honeybee, Brazilian pepper, Burmese python, Canada thistle, Chinese mitten crab, Cuban tree frog, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and New Zealand mud snail, just to name a few.

Oh, yeah, and there’s Asiatic witchweed, Asian tiger mosquito, Asian lady beetle, Asian long-horned beetle . . .