Almost all of the publicity regarding Asian carp has been directed at the Great Lakes and what those invasive species might do to the sport fishery there if they gain entrance.
But anglers in Tennessee and Kentucky believe that bighead and silver carp already are harming fisheries in the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems, and they say that federal and state officials aren’t doing enough to combat the problem.
“The commercial fishermen here on the main lake where I live are having a difficult time catching bait in their cast nets for their trotline bait,” said Jim Perry, a long-time guide on Kentucky Lake.
“Bass fishermen are telling me that the huge schools of shad are hard to locate on the main lake as compared to years past.”
And guide Darrell Van Vactor reported similar observations. Tailrace striper fisheries, he said, “are all but gone.
“The gizzard shad and the sauger, one in abundance below all these dams, are all but gone as well.”
Perry added that evidence isn’t yet definitive regarding the impact that Asian carp are having. “We need answers so we can get ourselves organized to do whatever we can to control Asian carp,” he said. “Sticking our head in the sand isn’t the answer. We need answers now.”
Bobby Wilson, fisheries chief for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), sympathizes with anglers.
“They should be concerned,” he said.
In 2011, his agency received many reports of carp in Kentucky and Barkley lakes and, this year, even more. Additionally, carp have been seen as far up the Cumberland River as Old Hickory and as far up the Tennessee River as Fort Loudoun Lake near Knoxville.
“The only thing that our biologists have not documented yet is if they are reproducing in our waters yet,” Wilson said. “We have received reports from anglers and commercial fishermen that they are seeing schools of small Asian carp, but we have not collected them yet. However, I suspect that they have reproduced to some extent.”
Right now, the fisheries chief added, TWRA is “still looking at solutions” in conjunction with other state and federal resource managers through groups such as the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resources Association (MICRA). A management and control plan has been developed, he added, “but implementation of the plan has not taken place, even though there is a lot of interest from some key politicians.”
That’s because federal money has yet to be appropriated. “A lot of federal money is being spent in preventing them (Asian carp) from entering the Great Lakes, but very little is being spent on trying to control Asian carp in areas where they already exist,” said Wilson, adding that “something needs to be done now.”
One possibility is encouraging and possibly even subsidizing commercial fishing for the invasives. “The cog in the wheel is adequate funding to construct processing facilities at key locations across the Mississippi River basin,” the fisheries chief said.
Steve MaCadams, another guide, agrees with that as one strategy to combat Asian Carp. “The market is here, I’m told, but getting the fish from the lake to the processing plan needs to be a short step and, right now, we have no processing plants in area,” he said.
“At stake is a very important sport fishery here that is crying out for help,” he added. “But the cries are falling on deaf ears to the degree that active plans are not being implemented as a clear and present danger lurks.”
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)
More About the Carp Invasion
Guide Steve McCadams is concerned about the following:
1. The public is not educated or really aware of the ramifications that encroaching Asian carp now thriving in our waterways will do to the overall sport fishery.
There are some signs and red flags beginning to pop up but generally speaking, the average angler isn’t fully aware of what negative impact lies ahead if these fish continue to go unleashed. He has seen and heard YouTube videos of the clowning when folks up north shoot them with bows or shotguns but isn’t aware of the silent danger lurking below that not only can harm boaters from clashes but silently take away the quality of the fishery he now enjoys.
2. Asian carp are abundant here and increasing at an alarming rate with no control programs in place from our states’ (Kentucky and Tennessee) fisheries divisions that seem to be moving way too slow in addressing this scenario.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife head of fisheries Ron Brooks has taken the lead between our two states and is attempting to bring more awareness plus implement some programs to rid our lakes of these nonnative fish. Having come from Illinois he has some background in the battle with Asian carp and I have been impressed with his efforts to highlight this growing problem. But actually getting something going with the two state agencies, TVA, USFWS, seems to be sluggish at best, while the Asian carp are marching into our rivers and lakes like Sherman went through Atlanta.
This “wait and see” atmosphere does not sit too well with some of us who know would could be lost.
Steps need to be taken here quickly to combat the problem before it gets worse and we start seeing further degradation of our sport fishery which is an industry in itself that generates millions of dollars in tourism.
Kentucky Lake has long been known as the Crappie Capitol. Our bass fishery in the last few years has been fantastic, a likely beneficiary of aquatic vegetation (milfoil, hydrilla, spiny leaf) that has come on. But the building blocks lie in the forage base, namely shad. If we lose the foundation of a good forage base, our bass, crappie, bluegill, sauger, catfish, etc. will begin to suffer soon.
3. What needs to be done
After attending several meetings, reading a lot, and trading numerous e-mails with fisheries biologists it appears to me that total eradication is a long way off and that some research is being done on that but that’s another realm altogether.
Urgent attention is needed here. From my observation it appears the commercial fishery will need to be in the equation as establishing a processing plant which will purchase fish from commercial fishermen will help control the expanding population which at this time has no enemies.
Right now, commercial fishermen here cannot get much per pound so they can’t pursue the Asian carp as the fish is delicate and must be flash frozen in the marketing process. The market is there I’m told but getting the fish from the lake to the processing plant needs to be a short step and right now we have no processing plants in the area.
So, fishermen cannot transport the fish for a very long distance before the meat spoils. States need to come together and subsidize the formation of a processing plant which will, in turn, bring the commercial fishery into the battle of carp control. However, that endeavor has been slow in the making.
There is the hurdle of commercial netting and the sport fishermen to clear. However, I think the state fisheries departments can work that out if education and public relations were handled properly.
In summary I don’t think our fisheries biologists realize how abundant the Asian carp are in our waters of Kentucky/Barkley Lake or the impending problem. The carp problems don’t stop or start at state lines either. So, both TVA and USFWS should also better address the problems and work with states in the battle but that doesn’t seem to be happening.