Asian carp sampling plan to include Pools 8, 9, 10 and 11

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This is an example of a silver carp. This particular specimen was caught by a commercial fisherman in the Mississippi River several years ago.

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources plan to conduct a large-scale netting operation after 51 invasive Asian carp were caught by commercial fishermen a few weeks ago near La Crosse and Trempealeau, Wis.

The Wisconsin and Minnesota DNRs are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and commercial fishermen on the project.

The Wisconsin and Minnesota DNRs responded immediately after 51 invasive carp were caught by two commercial fishing operators doing routine spring netting. Along with the large-scale netting, studies will be conducted on the captured carp and there will be increased monitoring. 

“This robust response will provide additional information about the population while removing any other invasive carp they happen to catch,” said DNR Invasive Species Unit Supervisor Heidi Wolf.

There were 39 silver carp and 11 grass carp caught by commercial fishermen a few weeks ago. Many were caught near the Seventh Street Boat Landing in La Crosse. One silver carp was caught in Pool 6 about 20 miles farther upstream.

Jordan Weeks, who is with the Mississippi River Team-Fisheries Management of the Wisconsin DNR, said he has not heard of any reports of large concentrations of invasive carp in Pool 10. However, there is a possibility they are present.

“We are currently working with the Minnesota DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formulate a sampling plan for Wisconsin/Minnesota and Wisconsin/Iowa waters of the Mississippi River,” said Weeks. “This sampling may include commercial fishing, larval sampling, radio telemetry and hydroacoustics.”

Weeks said it is not yet known if the 51 invasive carp caught by the commercial fishermen near La Crosse constitutes a breeding population. “We think that all the high water last year allowed easy passage of the fish upriver,” he said.

The 39 silver carp and 11 grass carp caught in Pool 8 just south of La Crosse, and one silver carp caught in Pool 6, have been given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine their age, size, gender and reproductive state.

“The location where these fish were caught is commonly netted because of concentrations of commercially valuable fish,” said DNR Invasive Carp Field Lead Ben Larson. “This is the largest congregation of invasive carp we’ve seen this far upstream.”

Invasive carp have been progressing upstream since escaping into the Mississippi River in Arkansas in the 1970s. These large fish compete with native species and pose a threat to rivers and lakes. No breeding populations have been detected in Minnesota waters to date. Individual invasive carp have been caught as far upstream as Pool 2 of the Mississippi, near the Twin Cities (bighead, grass, and silver carp), the King Power Plant on the St. Croix River by Oak Park Heights (bighead), and just downstream of Granite Falls in the Minnesota River (bighead).

Silver carp are also known as head-butting carp because they have a tendency to jump and startle boaters on the Mississippi.

Previous captures of invasive carp in Minnesota have been individuals or small numbers of fish. This recent capture near La Crosse indicates an increase in the abundance of invasive carp in the Pool 8 portion of the river between Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is very likely related to the prolonged high water conditions on the Mississippi River during the summer of 2019. During high water, gates at the locks and dams on the river are kept open to pass flood waters. These “open river” conditions allow easier upstream movement of fish from downstream portions of the river, where invasive carp densities are higher.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, bighead and silver carp are now abundant and reproducing in Iowa, about 100 miles south of Genoa, and continuing to move north.

The jumping of the silver carp can potentially injure boaters, but that is not the main concern regarding their movement up the Mississippi River. The main concern about silver carp and bighead carp (which are two separate species of Asian carp), is that they reproduce and grow very rapidly once established in an area and they also are huge eaters of plankton and plants which other species, such as small forage fish and sport fish, need.

“These Asian carp species are a serious concern because they can aggressively compete with native commercial and sport fish for food and can potentially disrupt entire ecosystems,” says a report by the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Asian carp have few natural predators because they quickly outgrow native predator species, often within just a year. In parts of the Illinois River, silver carp and bighead carp make up more than 90 percent of the fish biomass, essentially out competing all native species for food and habitat,” according to a comprehensive report on Asian carp by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.

The Wisconsin DNR has built partnerships with state and federal agencies, conservation groups, university researchers and commercial businesses to prevent the spread of invasive carp. The 2015 closure of the Mississippi River lock at Upper St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis was a major accomplishment of these efforts.

The DNR is actively engaged with several prevention efforts:

•The DNR is an active partner in the Upper Mississippi River Invasive Carp Workgroup. The group includes representatives from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and several federal agencies.

•In partnership with the DNR, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) at the University of Minnesota is testing and evaluating carp deterrents in Mississippi River locks and dams. Previously, MAISRC installed and evaluated a speaker system at Lock 8. Development of this technology will continue this year with the installation of an updated speaker system at this location.

•The DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division leads a program to monitor fish population changes and impacts of management actions. This includes maintaining important relationships with commercial fishing operators, as demonstrated in this recent instance near La Crosse.

State funding sources, including the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund and Outdoor Heritage Fund, have provided key funding for deterrent actions and the DNR invasive carp detection and response program.

Invasive carp captures must be reported to the DNR immediately. Those who capture invasive carp should call 651-587-2781 or email invasivecarp.dnr@state.mn.us. People who catch an invasive carp should take a photo and transport the carp to the nearest DNR fisheries office or make arrangements for it to be picked up by a DNR official.

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