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Entries in Mississippi River (39)

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

Monday
Aug272012

Four More Years Would Be Disaster for Recreational Fishing

 

Many in the outdoor media are critical of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for cutting or attempting to cut funds for various federal conservation programs.

I’m not one of them.

Yes, I would like that funding to continue. Yes, I believe that we could continue to finance those programs despite the budget deficit --- if we could eliminate the billions in fraud and waste perpetrated by corrupt politicians who are so adept at spending other people’s money. But that is as likely to happen as teaching pigs to fly so that we can save shipping costs for ham and bacon.

Republicans elected to the House in 2010 --- many of them supported by Tea Party affiliates --- went to Washington, D.C., with the intent of shrinking government, reducing taxes, and cutting back on spending.

I support that agenda and, sadly, realize that enacting it will mean reduced budgets for all if we are to avoid the collapse of our economy because of insurmountable debt.

On the other hand, four more years of Obama will push us to the precipice of economic collapse, with Greece providing us with a preview of what could happen here.

Meanwhile, many of those same folks in the outdoor media have been ignoring the threat that four more years of this president also will pose for recreational fishing.

Let’s start with funding. States finance their fisheries programs primarily with license fees and money collected as excise taxes on tackle, equipment, and motorboat fuel through the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. If the first four years are any indication --- and I believe that they are --- a second term would be catastrophic for our economy and, by extension, the fishing industry. That could mean less money for fisheries management, as anglers cut back on discretionary spending to make ends meet. 

The National Ocean Policy is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. By-passing Congress with an Executive Order, Obama has created a massive bureaucracy that will tell us where we can and cannot fish through a strategy called “marine spatial planning.” In reality, it is death by a thousand cuts for angling, as one fishery after another will be shut down by nameless bureaucrats.

Catch Shares is a second strategy pushed by this administration to limit access. Supposedly, it is being done for conservation. In reality, it is a scheme to privatize a public resource, as “shares” of an ocean fishery are allotted to individuals and/or companies. Right now, mostly it is directed at species harvested commercially. But if incorporated into “mixed” (commercial and recreation) fisheries, it will limit participation, as the sport sector will be limited to the same fixed amount each year.

The National Ocean Policy and Catch Shares are brought to us by preservationists from environmental groups that Obama has brought into his administration. Special interests aren’t just influencing public policy; they are setting it. 

If this President gets a second term, look for de-emphasizing of sport fisheries programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies, attempts to reduce access for anglers and hunters by establishment of land and marine preserves, and renewed boldness by anti-fishing groups that want to ban lead fishing tackle.

Also, look for this administration to continue “searching” for a solution that will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, as it sides with Illinois in opposing the obvious solution --- closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Eliminating that entry/exit not only would help keep carp out, but it would prevent other invasives from moving between the two systems.

I don’t know if Romney/Ryan would be any better about policy regarding this last issue. But I suspect that they would, given that Ryan, now a representative from Wisconsin, is both an angler and a hunter and would have a better appreciation of the value of the Great Lakes sport fishery. He also is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

What I do know is that this President is not a friend of angling. He might not be personally against it, but many in his administration either have no regard for it or they do oppose it. That, combined with four more years of economic hardship for this country, would be crushing for recreational fishing.

Please keep that in mind when you go to the polls in November.  And if you are an angler who usually does not vote, I hope that this will motivate you to do so.