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Entries in bighead carp (30)

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
Feb092017

Asian Carp Spawning Closer to Great Lakes

Asian carp have moved no closer to the Great Lakes during the past few years. They remain about 50 miles away. But they are spawning closer, and that's bad news.

"The bottom line is that the juvenile front is advancing, and made a big jump last year," said Joel Brammeier of the non-profit Alliance for the Great Lakes. "And we still don't have a permanent solution in place that's going to solve the problem."

That "big jump" was 90 miles.

Two electrical barriers and three locks and dams on the canal/river system serve as the final protection for Lake Michigan. Thus far, they have effectively blocked adult silver and bighead carp. But the smaller ones are much more likely to slip through in the wake of commercial barge traffic, which also can disrupt the effectiveness of the barriers.

"It seems like the wolves are at the door, and the door is still opening and closing," said Daniel O'Keefe of Michigan Sea Grant.

Meanwhile, a third electrical barrier is being constructed upstream of the other two, which are about 35 miles south of Lake Michigan. Intent is to make it more effective against juvenile fish, according to Charles Wooley, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Region.

"There are no fish that are probing these electrical barriers on a daily basis," he added. "The closest these fish are is about 15 to 20 miles downstream, and that leading edge hasn't really changed much in the past five or six years."

 

Friday
Oct072016

What You Don't Know About the Common Carp

Bluegill and bullheads got me started. But long before I became a semi-skilled bass angler,  common carp educated me. They pulled drag. They broke line. They made my heart pound and my pulse race. And one of them stole my Johnson spincast outfit as it rested in a forked stick on a creek bank.

As I pursued them, I learned the benefits of subtlety and finesse and the importance of tying good knots. And I gained valuable experience combating  double-digit carp hooked on Wheaties, dough balls, and worms long before I encountered my first five-pound bass on an artificial.

Many anglers who grew up in the Midwest and Mid-South, where common carp are especially common, shared similar experiences, I suspect.

What I didn't know then and what thousands and thousands of still don't know today is that the common carp also has altered, degraded, and even destroyed sport fisheries in every state except Alaska.  They've been in our waters so long that most just think of them as natives, which they are not.

Rather, they are arguably the most destructive aquatic species every introduced into the United States. But, as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) points out, because they have been present in some areas since the first surveys were taken, their impact can't be definitively determined.

Long before political favoritism, poor judgment,  illegal acts, and under-regulated pet and shipping industries led to the introduction and spread of  other exotic fish, including bighead and silver carp, the federal government championed  import of the common carp. A fish native to Asia and Eastern Europe, it had been cultivated as a food fish and water-garden inhabitant for thousands of years.

Pressure on the feds came from immigrants, who could not believe that the waters of their new homeland did not contain carp. Out in California, Julius A. Poppe imported five carp from Germany in 1872, and, four years later, was shipping them by train throughout the country.

"There ought to be one person in every county who would raise choice carp as stock fish to sell to others to fatten for their own tables," he said.

Listening to Poppe and others, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began to intensively cultivate and distribute carp in 1877, with state fish commissions soon following suit. Additionally, the carp's ability to live and reproduce in most every water condition allowed it to spread on its own as well.

So, what happened?  First, the common carp did not prove to be the popular food and sport fish that it was in Europe and Asia. By the turn of the century, in fact, fishermen saw it supplanting the fish that they preferred to catch and eat. Additionally, both anglers and fisheries managers noted  that formerly clear lakes and ponds where carp had been introduced were turning  muddy.

That's because the common carp is a bottom feeder, not a filter-feeder like silver and bighead carp. It uproots vegetation, as it sucks in mud and other matter, retaining the nutrients it finds, while spitting out the rest. This increases turbidity, which, in turn, reduces the ability of predator fish to see their prey. It also hinders light penetration, which aquatic vegetation requires for growth. Plus, the USGS said, "There is also evidence that common carp prey on the eggs of other fish species."

Now factor in the carp's productivity. A female can lay up to two million eggs during one spawn, and the young can grow as large as eight inches in the first year.

Of course, bottom-feeding carp were not solely to blame for murky water and declining populations of native fish. Their introduction came at a time when we also were oblivious to the impacts that pollution and land-use practices had on our lakes and rivers.  As much as anything, carp simply took advantage of conditions that harmed native species while allowing them to thrive.

Today, state agencies spend millions of dollars annually rehabilitating fisheries that have been overrun with carp. For example, Kansas recently contracted with commercial fishermen to catch and remove them from Milford Reservoir, the largest impoundment in the state.

"Agency officials hope that removing carp from Milford will improve water quality and reduce the potential for blue-green algae blooms, while also providing benefits to sport fish," said Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism."

Yeah, the common carp is a great "starter" fish. But who knows what bounty that I and many others might have enjoyed as kids if our waters had not been invaded and degraded by them.

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

Monday
Sep072015

Asian Carp Spawn Raises Threat for Barkley, Kentucky Lake Sport Fisheries

Can an Asian carp invasion destroy a world-class sport fishery? We're about to find out. And, no, it won't be in the Great Lakes.

Ground Zero will be Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, where anglers and commercial fishermen now are seeing millions and millions of young-of-the year silver carp.

Commercial fisherman Ben Duncan sent me these photos that he recently took at Boswell Bay, where he caught about 500 of them.

"I've seen similar schools in Cypress Bay, Eagle Creek, and Blood River," he said. "My conjecture is this year's mid-summer flood has made the 2015 spawn one for the record books."

And Paul Rister, a Kentucky fisheries biologist, confirmed that assessment. "Yes, we are aware of the tremendous spawn of Asian carp in the tailwaters and lakes this past spring," he said, adding that the state recently implemented a nickel a pound subsidy to encourage commercial harvest.

He also said that the numbers of carp likely will be far more than commercial fishermen can harvest, especially since nets can capture only larger specimens.

"So, what is the answer?" he continued. "There is not one yet. The good news is that it is still very unlikely that the carp have impacted sport fish in the lakes."

They may have displaced them, though, meaning anglers might find the fishing tougher as they are forced to fish new areas. Also, with so much forage, bass and crappie might be more difficult to catch on artificial baits--- at least immediately after the carp spawn. But within a few months, the fast-growing carp are too large for sport fish to eat.

Those impacts are short term. What's going to happen during the next year? Or five? Will the invasion overwhelm the sport fishery as carp occupy so much water that there's no room for other species?  That's happened in portions of major rivers, including the Missouri and Illinois.

Will commercial fishing contain carp numbers? Will scientists develop a chemical or biological control?

We will just have to wait and see.