Most anglers know that Asian carp are overwhelming populations of native fish in portions of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Likely they are aware that the invaders could have catastrophic consequences for the sport fishery if they migrate into the Great Lakes.
And almost certainly they have seen photos of silver carp leaping from the water, like the one above, as they are frightened by passing boats. This iconic shot was taken in 2007 by Nerissa McClelland of Illinois Department of Natural Resources from the chase boat as an electrofishing survey was conducted on the Illinois River, just upstream from Havana.
What most anglers do NOT know is that silver and bighead carp also threaten the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems , along with the world-class sport fisheries in their reservoirs. Most at risk right now are Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, but the invaders are moving steadily upriver from there.
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 is some insight regarding the problem from Ben Duncan , a commercial fisherman:
"I think it's too late to fully save the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The quantity of carp in both those rivers is unimaginable, although sustained fishing does help. If we don't start soon, the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers will soon follow.
"Using the Cumberland River as an example, the numbers on the Barkley pool are large, while two pools up--- Old Hickory Lake --- catches, while becoming more frequent, are still at manageable levels.
" I have been on these lakes all my life, and spend more time on the water in a year than most people do in 10, and I can already see how native fish are changing their behaviors due to the invasion of carp. I think it's even influenced the crappie population and spawn on Kentucky Lake. Commercially, we catch way fewer fish in the bays than we did seven or eight years ago--- especially buffalo--- a fish that competes with Asians for food. Such large schools of carp decimate the food source so there's no reason to enter the bays. I have observed the same patterns in gizzard shad.
"Currently, commercial harvest is the only defense. Kentucky and Barkley lakes are two of the most productive reservoirs in the country and it's concerning that Asian carp have made them so vulnerable. There are still several anglers unaware of the severity of the problem and most need to be educated on how tackling the problem is a collaborative effort among all stakeholders."