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Entries in Illinois River (11)

Friday
Aug212015

Tennessee, Cumberland River Fisheries Threatened by Asian Carp

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."

Sunday
Apr192015

Largemouth Bass Chow Down on Bighead Carp in Lab Tests

Bighead carp grow large. But bass eat them when they're smalll and more vulnerable

“Asian carp” actually refers to two species of exotic fish, not one. As they spread throughout the nation’s rivers, both pose threats to native fisheries.

As it turns out, though, there seems to be a big difference in their vulnerability to predation. That’s bad news for bighead carp, which grow larger, feed more exclusively on zooplankton, and are less abundant. And good news for the smaller silver carp, which have become infamous for endangering boaters with their leaping antics.

Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Museum and University of Illinois put small samples of both into experimental pools, along with bluegill, gizzard shad, and golden shiners. Largemouth bass in those pools ate more bighead carp than any other species, including silver carp. Scientists hypothesized that this may mean that young silver carp are more “street smart” than their bighead cousins.

While it’s good to know that bass can and likely do eat these invaders, especially bighead carp, whether this predation will help control them remains to be seen.

“Although new research is confirming that native fish can and do consume Asian carp, this not mean that all is well,” cautioned the Michigan State University Extension (MSUE). “In the LaGrange Reach of the Illinois River, at least seven native fish are preying on Asian carp. Even so, this reach has one of the highest densities of silver carp recorded anywhere in the world.

“Native plankton-eating fish like gizzard shad and bigmouth buffalo have declined and the long-term effects on gamefish are still uncertain.”

In 2008, biologists estimated more than 5,000 silver carp per mile in that nearly 80-mile stretch of the river, with a biomass of 705 metric tons.

“In the Great Lakes, we already know that native fish are adapting to non-prey items like quagga mussels and round gobies,” MSUE continued. “We also know that predation has not been enough to eliminate these species or prevent their negative effects. The same is likely true for Asian carp.”

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

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
Mar122014

Fish Pass Through Electric Barrier

The last line of defense against Asian carp entering Lake Michigan isn’t impenetrable, according to a new report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish can pass through the electric barrier unharmed when they get caught in the wakes of barges passing through. And that’s not all. Metal barges can deplete the charge, and small fish aren’t always susceptible.

"Initial findings indicate that vessel-induced residual flows can trap fish and transport them beyond the electrical barriers, and that certain barge configurations may impact barrier electric field strength,” says an interim report based on laboratory and field experiments.

“Additionally, the preliminary (sonar camera) findings identified the potential for small fish (between 2-4 inches in length) to pass the barrier array in large groups, or schools."

The Corps emphasizes that the findings are preliminary, with more work to be done with the barge community and the Coast Guard to see how the barrier can be strengthened.

“There is no evidence that Asian Carp are bypassing the barriers; nor is there any indication Asian carp are in the vicinity of the barriers,” the agency says. “The closest adult Asian carp found in the Illinois River are about 55 miles from Lake Michigan, and no small Asian carp have been observed closer than 131 miles from Lake Michigan.”

Critics point out that water samples taken near the barrier and in a canal on the lake side of the barrier have tested positive for the exotic fish. Plus, poisoning of the canal in 2009 revealed an Asian carp carcass.

Read more here.

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

Wednesday
Sep112013

Take a Bite Out of Carp Invasion

Okay, enough is enough.

 

Chef Philippe Parola wants us to east more Asian carp.

Down in Louisiana, fear of flying carp is keeping froggers out of the bayous at night.

On Lake Tunica in northern Mississippi, a woman sustained a broken collarbone when she collided with a barrage of silver carp while tubing.

In reporting on the latter, the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

“Despite somewhat sensational coverage that implied she was attacked, she wasn’t. The fish were doing what comes naturally when startled.

“Her experience is, sadly, not unique. Vast stretches of our waterways are being eliminated from recreational use by the carp’s presence. Folks in places like Peoria, Illinois, have long since abandoned recreational activity on the Illinois River for fear of similar incidents.”

The feds aren’t going to solve this problem. In fact, silver and bighead carp eventually will make their way into the Great Lakes and possibly devastate the sport fishery there because of politics and bureaucratic incompetence.

As with most everything else, the best means of dealing with this expanding invasion is private initiative. Or, as Gary Tilyou, Louisiana Inland Fisheries administrator advises: “When one jumps in your boat, eat it.”

And Tilyou is not the only one in Louisiana recommending that solution, which, admittedly, will require considerable corn meal.

“The Asian carp is not just a Great Lake problem,” says Chef Philippe Parola. “Our solution is to break down these delicious invasive fish and mass produce precooked boneless fish fillets for U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.

“This solution will immediately and rapidly remove these invasive fish from our waters.”

He adds that commercial harvest of silver and bighead carp will create jobs, boost local economies, “and offer a much cleaner, domestic fish. To date, more than 85 percent of U.S. fish consumption is imported and the majority of these imported fish are contaminated with pollutants or abused with overdoses of sodium for preservation and weight purpose.”

Also a recreational angler, Parola is at the forefront of a movement that seeks to control carp, lionfish, wild hogs, and other invasives by popularizing them as food.  As global commerce and increased mobility have accelerated these invasions in recent years, this campaign seems as likely as any government intervention to take a bite out of the problem.

Especially if anglers and others will give carp a chance.

“The meat is white. I’ve eaten it numerous times,” says Tilyou. “It’s not common carp. That’s a different fish.”

Parola adds, “The taste is a cross between scallops and crab meat.”

Besides buying “silverfin” at the markets and restaurants when it becomes available, anglers can help in other ways. The most obvious way is to keep carp when they jump in the boat, as Tilyou suggests.

But snagging and bowfishing tournaments also can reduce populations and put food on the table. And, the field is wide open for figuring out ways to get these filter feeders to bite on baits.

To find out more about eating invasive carp, check out Chef Parola’s web site at www.chefphilippe.com.

He is quick to advise that the carp should be bled as quickly as possible to improve the taste and he acknowledges that bones are abundant. That’s why he has focused on marketing items such as gumbo, cream bisque, and fish balls and cakes, as opposed to raw fillets.

Also, you can learn about lionfish from Maurice “Mojo” White in the Bahamas. At his www.lionfishhunter.com site, he will tell you how to safely handle and prepare this invader with toxin-tipped fins. In recent years, it has spread throughout the Caribbean and up the East Coast as far as Long Island.

Following are recipes developed by Parola for “silverfin”:

Silverfin fried strips. 4 servings

16 strips of silverfin fish (boneless if possible)

2 eggs

1 cup of Kleinpeter half & half for eggwash

1 cup of Louisiana fish fry seasoned flour

Peckapepper mango sauce for dipping

Preheat fryer at 350. In a bowl, crack 2 eggs, stir well, and then add half & half. Stir well again. Place the strips in eggwash.  Coat each strip with seasoned flour. Fry until done. Serve with mango sauce.

 

Silverfin cakes. 4 servings

1 pound of silverfin white meat

4 ounces of melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 whole egg

1 ounce of crumbled bread

Seasoning and hot sauce to taste

Poach or steam silverfin meat until fully cooked.  Break it up in pieces to remove bones. Place the meat in a mixing bowl. Add butter, mustard, egg, and lemon juice. Mix well and add crumbled bread. Season to taste. Make small cakes, roll in egg wash and seasoned flour, and then fry.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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