Potential for Asian carp in Great Lakes could cause problems

Invasive species are a constant threat to natural ecosystems. Anglers and boaters are encouraged to take precautions to reduce the spread of certain plants and animals. One of the greatest battles is against the spread of the Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

The Asian “carp” are the big head carp, silver carp and black carp and are not related to the carp. The eyes and mouth of the big head carp and its more acrobatic relative, the silver carp, seem strangely out of place. You may have seen videos of Asian carp fishing, showing them jumping when startled by boat engines.

These fish originally escaped from aquaculture farms in the south. In 2008 they were reported within 15 miles of the electrical barrier in a Chicago canal. That year a silver carp was seen behind an electrical barrier. Scientists and fisheries managers are also using acoustic bubble barriers, chemical deterrents, nets and electrofishing to monitor and stop Asian carp migration in the Great Lakes.

Why the great worries of the Asian carp in the Great Lakes?

When Asian carp reach the Great Lakes, the balance of the system can be upset. These fish are very tolerant of temperature extremes and low levels of dissolved oxygen, allowing them to survive conditions other fish cannot. They grow quickly and can weigh over 60 pounds. To achieve this growth, these “planktivores” need to consume large amounts of plankton, which would normally feed all other fish larvae, and such docile native fish as big mouth buffalo, paddle fish, and stomach mouth fish.

Hence, Asian carp fishing is tricky and there aren’t many carp fishing tips out there. Tiny plankton doesn’t exactly fit on a hook. In trying to figure out how to catch Asian carp, one method of Asian carp fishing is described in the informative article Carp Lemonade by Duane Chapman, Conservation Commission of Missouri. Under a large bobber, surround a large ball of dough with a “nest” of tiny hooks tied over it so that they dangle around the ball of dough. One report claimed success with cheese. And some fly fishermen have hooked them with heavy minnows. Bow fishing is another option.

When anglers find Asian carp in the Great Lakes, all we have to do is make “lemonade” out of the situation and try to get the most out of Asian carp fishing, as in some parts of the Mississippi they have become the dominant species. Please do your part to prevent the spread of these and other invasive species. The Great Lakes are an amazing fishery and need our protection. Funds from your fishing license and boat registration will help you with this.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and the stressed-out dad has authored over 380 blogs for since 2011, Pike, Smallmouth Bass, and Steelhead in Pennsylvania. After receiving his BS in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.


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