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Entries in Mississippi River (40)

Friday
Mar152013

Commercial Tournament Highlights Carp Threat to Sport Fisheries

Commercial fishermen bring in catch during tournament. AP photo.

The threat that Asian carp pose to the north --- Great Lakes, upper Missouri River impoundments, inland Minnesota waters from the upper Mississippi, etc. --- makes most of the headlines these days.

But these prolific nuisance species also are moving south and east through the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers systems. And the severity of the invasion in these waters is evidenced by the results of a recent first-of-its-kind commercial fishing tournament at Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Eleven teams brought in 82,953 pounds of Asian carp. That’s short of the 200,000-pound goal, but 41 tons are more than enough to reveal the extent of the problem.

The Gleaner.com reports the following:  

"It validated some of the things we had thought, that good skilled fisherman can come in there and take out 10,000 pounds a day, all you have to do is create a market," Kentucky Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini said on Thursday. The fish can be harvested to produce fertilizers, pet foods, and fish oil products, he said. They are also edible.

State officials are concerned about the rapid spread of the fish in Barkley and Kentucky lakes. The carp breed faster than some native species and eat up the algae and zooplankton that other fish depend on.

The Asian carp infiltrated the Mississippi River in the 1970s after getting loose from fish farms. Federal officials, worried about the species reaching the Great Lakes, are conducting a study to investigate how Asian carp DNA got into rivers and canals in the Chicago area.

Ron Brooks, Kentucky's fisheries director, said one species of the problem fish, the silver carp, is prone to leaping out of the water when agitated by boat noise, which can injure boaters and skiers.

Brooks said state officials will make tweaks to the next tournament to attract more fishing teams.

The two-day tournament winner was Barry Mann of Gilbertsville. His team hauled in 28,669 pounds and won a top prize of $10,000. The commercial teams used nets since the carp don't bite on baited hooks. More than 20 teams signed up but just 11 teams brought in fish for weighing, Marraccinni said.

The removed carp were taken to a processing plant in Mississippi, where they will be harvested for fish oils and used in pet foods, Marraccini said.

Here’s a video about the tournament.

To learn more about the threat that Asian carp pose to the east and south check out

Asian Carp Also Threaten Southern Fisheries.

Monday
Mar112013

Carp Czar Focuses on Carp Threat to Ohio, Mississippi Rivers --- Finally

Carp caught at Kentucky Lake. Photo by Steve McCadams.

Activist Angler has been sounding the alarm for months about Asian carp spreading up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, as well as east into the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio systems.

Finally, our federal carp czar, John Goss, has taken note that the Great Lakes aren't the only waters at risk. Isn’t that reassuring?

"Attacking the carp populations in the Ohio and Mississippi rivers needs to be our focus over the next few years," he said recently. "With very limited funding, we haven't been able to jump into it. Hopefully, Congress will recognize that, and we're working with federal staff people to get appropriations.”

Cleveland.com reports that Asian carp have reached Ohio waters of the Ohio River, and moved up the Little Miami River near Cincinnati.  It adds, “The infestation is so bad in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Kentucky that the first commercial netting contest ever held will target the carp on March 12-13, with a $20,000 top prize. A commercial fisherman in that region told state officials he recently caught 36,000 pounds of carp - in just six hours.”

Goss said commercial netting will be the first wave of defense.

"Commercial fishing is working well on the Illinois River, keeping the bulk of the carp population about 100 miles away from the electric barriers (in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal). This year, netters took 60,000 Asian carp, which means we have a lot less pressure from fish swimming up to the barrier situation."

Following are just a few of articles that Activist Angler has posted to sound the alarm about Asian carp spreading north, east, and south:

Asian Carp also Threaten Southern Fisheries

Minnesota Anglers Urge Action to Stop Asian Carp Invasion

Asian Carp Using New Route to Threaten Minnesota Fisheries

Wednesday
Oct312012

Asian Carp Also Threaten Southern Fisheries

A commercial fisherman caught this 12-pound silver carp on one of his trotlines in Kentucky Lake. Photo by Steve McCadams.

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.)

Commercial harvest of bighead carp.

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.

 

Monday
Oct012012

Anglers, Boaters Getting 'Locked' Out

Starting this month, anglers and other boaters will find water access reduced --- in some cases, even eliminated --- at reservoir systems managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a few cases, new restrictive policies already are in place.

Officials cite budget constraint as the reason. They say that aging infrastructure requires that they direct funding that normally would go to lower priority facilities and operations to those with higher priorities.       

Among the lowest priorities is lock service, especially on systems where commercial traffic has diminished or, in some cases, disappeared entirely. As a consequence, service has been or will be reduced and/or eliminated at 63 locks nationwide.

In West Virginia, that policy translates into lost access on the Upper Monongahela River, a popular bass fishery.

“With the proposed lock closings, recreational users will have extremely limited access to the two middle pools in West Virginia,” says Jerod Harman, conservation director for the West Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. “The Corps will basically shut down 13.4 miles of navigable waters, or approximately 1/3 of the fishable waters on the river in West Virginia.

“But, more importantly, this has restricted the thoroughfare from Fairmont to Morgantown. It would be kind of like the only bridge was lost on a major interstate highway. You can either drive on ‘that side’ or you can drive on ‘this side.’ But you can’t get there from here!”

The Alabama, Allegheny, Arkansas, Black Warrior, Chattahoochee, Cumberland, Mississippi, Ouachita, Red, Tennessee, West Pearl, and many other systems also will see locks service reduced or even eliminated for recreational traffic.

As a consequence, some fisheries, such as Hildebrand Pool on the Monongahela, no longer will have public access.

“It’s outrageous,” says Barry Pallay, vice president of the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA), which has been working with the Corps, communities, B.A.S.S., and others to maintain recreational access.

“Not only is there not access at Hildebrand, but the only access on the Morgantown Pool, Uffington boat ramp, gets silted in.”

With locks closed to recreational traffic, anglers also will be denied the freedom to fish several pools from one launch site, while larger pleasure craft won’t be able to cruise through a system, On the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF), for example, boaters can no longer go from Eufaula, Ala., to Apalachicola, Fla.

That’s because locks at Walter F. George (Lake Eufaula), George W. Andrews, and Jim Woodruff (Lake Seminole) rank as only a “1” in importance. Level 6 locks are manned 24/7, while level 1 locks are opened for commercial navigation by appointment only.

“We’d have to have at least more than a thousand recreational lockages to raise up to level 3, which involves someone manning the locks one shift per day,” says Bill Smallwood, ACF project manager.

The three locks had no commercial traffic in 2011, with recreational lockages numbered nearly 300 at Lake Eufaula and 140 at Seminole.

Out on the Ouachita, a new lock operation schedule means service reduced from 24 hours to 18 hours a day at two Louisiana locks and from 24 hours to 16 hours at two Arkansas locks.

"This could be the beginning of the end for this project," said Bill Hobgood, executive director of the Ouachita River Valley Association.

But the UMRA, B.A.S.S., and others are determined to protect and restore access for recreational use on these systems.

“I am working with Gordon Robertson at the American Sportfishing Association to set up a meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to discuss the serious impacts that closure of 60 locks will have for recreational fishing and boating,” said Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.

UMRA, meanwhile, intends to find a solution, possibly one that can be applied nationally, and Pallay says that Corps officials, in turn, have been cooperative.

During a joint public meeting in July, officers from the Pittsburgh District said this in their Power Point presentation:

“As the federal government steps out, who steps in? We are willing to try anything; to explore any idea. Let’s set the example for the nation on how to do this right.”

UMRA has placed some of its recommendations in a resolution endorsed by communities along the Upper Monongahela. Among them: open the locks during recreation boating season, authorize use of part-time employees or even auxiliary volunteers as lock operators, and investigate innovative ways to fund operation of locks.

“We want to find ways to keep the locks open while we work on long-term solutions,” Pallay says. “And now we are ratcheting up the effort.

“We’re hoping that by April of next year we will be testing a pilot or demonstration project that can be replicated in other places.”

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Sep072012

Close Canal to Stop Carp from Invading Great Lakes

Canal connection between Mississippi River basin and Lake Michigan. Photo by Gary Porter.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper agrees with me that the manmade connection between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes should be closed.

In an editorial headlined “Let science prevail in Fight over Chicago canal,” it says the following:

“The Army Corps of Engineers is looking more like a guy who can smell smoke but won't admit there's a fire because he can't see flames. The smoke is rising from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in the form of DNA evidence that the Asian carp is close to entering Lake Michigan, if it already hasn't done so.

“But with only two actual dead carp found - one on either side of an electrical barrier in the canal designed to stop the fish - Army Corps Maj. Gen. John Peabody isn't ready to do the obvious: close the canal that destroyed the natural barrier between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins when it was built in the 19th century.”

We must close that connection not only to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. We must close it because the canal is an open door for other invasions. For example, zebra and quagga mussels used that route --- as well as hitchhiking --- to spread into the Mississippi River and, from there, all across the country.

Read the editorial here