by Tim Huffman
Stories and blame varies with most fingers pointing to a few government agencies and fish farmers. Different species of Asian carp were imported to help control the over-abundance of aquatic vegetation in ponds and small lakes. The major problem developed when flooding allowed the fish to gain access to the Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. These waters gave carp plenty of avenues to spread.
The result is a critical situation in several states and it’s a future threat to others, especially the Great Lakes region. Eight to ten years ago the warning came out about the impending, potential threat, and now the reality is here. It doesn’t matter who caused the problem, the key is to take measures to reduce the damage before it’s too late.
Carp Problems and Facts:
The silver carp are famous for their ability to jump. Vibrations in the water, like those from an outboard motor, causes them to jump. They are a danger to fishermen, water skiers and anyone navigating the water. They are said to jump up to ten feet high.
Their biggest problem is they disrupt the food cycle by eating the same things as our shad, minnows and young sportfish. But they don’t eat just a little, they devastate an area due to their number and size. This has caused a decline in sportfish in areas with heavy concentrations of carp.
A result in reduced bass, catfish and crappie populations, along with the danger of injury due to jumping, causes reduced tourism, tournaments, guide trips and recreational fishing. The economic impact to a lake like Kentucky Lake will be catastrophic. Some impact is already being felt in several lakes.
The two worst carp are the bighead and silver although others are included within the Asian Carp group.
Due to what they eat, they are very difficult to target as a sportfish. Since they have not yet been accepted as a great table fish and are not subject to rod-and-reel fishing, there is little reason for them to be pursued the average fisherman. The carp have few predators.
To compound the problems, carp grow rapidly and reproduce up to four times a year. This allows their numbers to overwhelm other species.
Solutions include commercial harvest for food and fertilizer. Blocking their entry into other waters. And a variety of testing generic alteration or eradication, but nothing is ready at this time.
The carp have moved into most oxbow lakes during river flooding. Any creek, river or tributary, and most adjoining lakes, that connects to a river with carp are exposed. The fish can also swim through locks and dams giving them access to other waters.
Solving the Problem
Crappie USA General Manager, Darrell VanVactor has been preaching the need for action for a decade. “I’m no biologist but I’ve personally watched the carp and have listened to experts. The thing about the carp is they are filtering the same waters where our gamefish are laying eggs. They eat Zooplankton and small organisms from the water. When they do, that leaves no food for our baitfish and without baitfish you don’t have sportfish. That’s where we are today.”
He says the Kentucky and Barkley Lake area, at least on the northern end, are ready to lose half their business if something isn’t done immediately. One study predicted 2.4 billion dollars of lost revenue in one region alone due to the carp.
“Fishing here has gone from what I always considered one the best overall fisheries in the nation to what I would consider headed for rock bottom. It’s for all species. The crappie population is really down and what we have are very thin. The carp eliminating shad means no food for the gamefish.
“And when the populations of carp get so great that they dominate an area, it’s obvious they disturb or destroy spawning beds in the spring causing even more lost gamefish.
“We have four major rivers coming together up here, the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi. This is a hotspot for the carp and must be given attention. If not, eventually there will be no stopping them getting into all major waters.”
“The only solution now is commercial netting. Because the problem has become enormous, it is a federal problem.”
Lyon County Kentucky Judge Executive, Wade White agrees. He formed the War On Carp Coalition.
“War On Carp,” says White, “is simply pulling groups and agencies together who have been working hard individually. Working together we can get more accomplished.”
White says there are potential solutions in the works but we can’t wait years for them to be developed. The sound walls at locks can help the spread but it’s critical to start removing the carp now.
“We’ve got to have money in order to do what we need to do with the barriers and to pay the commercial fishermen what they need in order to pull out a lot of fish. We must improve our markets so they can take out more fish. These are things we need now. If we don’t, everything will be ruined. They’ve invaded our waters and everything they touch is being destroyed.”
White continues, “A congressional meeting here in Eddyville, Kentucky (July 27th), lead by Congressman Cormer, allowed us to present many emails of support, hear facts and see the number of people concerned about this problem. He can take this back to Washington and ask for the amount of money we are requesting, 50-million dollars over a five year period.”
White says nobody will get rich from the carp fund. “Even the commercial fishermen who will be subsidized, is wanting the Asian carp gone so they can harvest the fish they need for their commercial fishing. The carp is 17 cents a pound and we want to increase this so it will be profitable for more fishermen to take big numbers of carp out of the water. It will include getting more markets and keeping fishermen on the water instead of transporting fish long distances.
“I refuse to wait until it’s too late, until other solutions are found.”
How can you help? One is to send letters to your political leaders to ask them to help save the waters and make them safer.
The second is by donations. www.carpharvestfund.com money immediately goes to support the removal of carp without the government red tape.
To learn more, go to www.WarOnCarp.com