Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
Asian Carp Impacting Local Waters
June 5, 2004
When Asian carp first began showing up in the lower Mississippi River a few years ago, a lot of people thought their impact was more comical than serious.
Kentucky New Era
That's because these acrobatic imports tend to leap high out of the water when boat motors are started. They apparently become agitated by either a motor's noise or turbulence created by motor propellers.
Television news networks ran stories about the carp invasion, including film of their leaping abilities. These fish grow quite large, and boaters reportedly have been injured by "flying" carp.
Asian carp reportedly were imported by Arkansas fish farmers to help control algae in their rearing ponds. They made their way into the Mississippi River during floods in the early 1990s and steadily spread their populations upstream into rivers and lakes along the way, including Barkley and Kentucky lakes.
Make no mistake, Asian carp have become a serious problem and one that should concern the state's sport fishermen. Consider:
Paul Rister, western district fisheries biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, says Asian carp have devastated sport fish populations in Ohio River sloughs in western Kentucky.
These sloughs and oxbow lakes once yielded fine catches of bass, bluegill and crappie that moved there when the Ohio River flooded. This may be the case no longer.
Rister, quoted in a recent article in The Kentucky Sportsman, the official publication of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, said the last sampling of fish populations in Fish Lake produced no sport fish. None.
The only species found in Fish Lake, one of several lakes within the Boatwright and Ballard Wildlife Management Areas, were silver and bighead Asian carp. Rister said the carp simply have taken over in these once-productive lakes.
Ted Crowell, state assistant fisheries director, says Asian carp account for up to 90 percent of the total fish population in some Mississippi River pools.
Asian carp are filter feeders and consume plankton and microorganisms necessary to sustain all young sport fish.
It appears almost inevitable that Asian carp will spread into almost all public state waters. But fisheries officials say anglers can help by discarding bait properly, never transferring shad from one body of water to another. They say young Asian carp easily are misidentified as shad.