Fishermen and Conservationists worry about Asian carp 

A big head carp (bottom) and a silver carp are pictured. These two invasive species are of the biggest concern to officials hoping to stop invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes. (Courtesy Photo)

A big head carp (bottom) and a silver carp are pictured. These two invasive species are of the biggest concern to officials hoping to stop invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes. (Courtesy Photo)

Last week fisherman and conservationists learned that an Asian carp was found only 9 miles from Lake Michigan.

The Silver carp, which is considered an Asian carp, was caught on the Little Calumet River, just down river from the Thomas J O’Brien Lock on the Southside of Chicago.

The Asian carp have damaged the Mississippi and Missouri River Basins for years while damaging some of the sport fishing in those areas. The appearance near the Great Lakes raises some concern about what could happen when the fish finally makes its way into this waterway.

The fish has its strongest effect on an ecosystem and food chain based on what it eats. It consumes a large amount of algae, and without any natural predators, could take over the ecosystem, or at least significantly change it.

“When you destroy the bottom of the food chain, you can destroy the entire food chain. That’s the problem,” Terry Tatarchuk, President of the Pine River Area Chapter of Trout Unlimited said. “They’re fast-growing, they reproduce rapidly, they have large appetites and they destroy the whole food chain. For a conservationist this is about as devastating as having millions of other things invade our state. It’s like an army invading our country. It is serious.”

Trout Unlimited is a conservation organization dedicated to restoration, preservation and the sustainability of freshwater watersheds.

“It’s devastating. We’ve all seen the pictures of them in the rivers. If they get into the Great Lakes and take over, then it’s done,” Dewey Buchner, of Don’s Sporting Goods in Manistee said. “They out-compete everything and they grow too fast. They just eat everything.”

Duane C. Chapman is a Research fish biologist from the United States Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center in Missouri who has studied the behavior of the fish since being introduced into the Missouri River ecosystem.

He says some fish have done well, such as catfish, while he points to others that are similar to what we see in Michigan with perch and walleye that have struggled to coexist with Asian carp in Europe. He also points to the physical danger that silver carp offer when in the water. The fish is known to jump out of the water when excited and have hit fisherman in the past.

“We are seeing effects on other species of fish. Catfish are doing fairly well in the presence of silver carp, but the fishermen aren’t. Most of the fishing here happens at night and it’s no fun to be bombarded by silver carp,” he said. “Other fish can get hurt real bad when it comes to crappie or largemouth bass. Especially crappie, that’s where we’ve been hit the worst. It’s tough to say (what will happen) because we haven’t overlapped with trout or salmon yet. There aren’t too many places in the world where they overlap with those groups of fishes. There have been substantial effects on perch. The sauger (relative of the walleye) and the perch have been hurt pretty badly by the invasion of silver carp in Europe.”

Chapman also said that it’s tough to tell how it will coexist with salmon and trout because there are few areas in the world where the two crossover. Tatarchuk worries about what the fish would do to all species that sport fishermen go for as it is a multi-million dollar industry in the state.

“By eating the bottom of the food chain, they deprive all of the natural fish that live in Lake Michigan of their food source,” he said. “The invasive species, such as the Asian Carp, it won’t only hurt trout. It will hurt trout, bass, walleye, suckers, anything that lives in the Great Lakes depends on the algae to feed the little stuff.”

As of now the fish hasn’t been spotted this far North, and no one is quite sure how long it will take for it to move this far up here, but there are some proactive measures being taken right now on both the political spectrum and on the front lines.

“(We’re looking) to seek innovation. The governor (Snyder) has pushed what we called the ‘Invasive Carp Challenge.’ That is through entrepreneurs and people everywhere to come up with new technologies to stop carp from getting to the lakes. Those are the the immediate actions we’re going to take,” DNR public information officer Ed Golder said. “We’re going to continue as a state to work with other states and the federal government to fight this serious threat. We’re going to continue to monitor some of our rivers here in Michigan to make sure that we don’t find any live Asian Carp.”

Tatarchuk recommends dumping minnows used for bait in the trash after fishing, because some types of minnows can be easily confused with a juvenile Asian carp. He also talked about washing your equipment while while going in and out of the water to avoid moving any unwanted algae from one body of water to another.

“One of the things we can do is to not dump our bait fish into the water when we have minnows. It’s really hard to tell a juvenile grass carp from an emerald shiner. They look a lot alike,” he said. “The minnows look pretty much the same. The DNR wants us to dump our unused minnows in the trash.”

Despite being open to ideas, there isn’t one concrete solution to the problem. Chapman believes the solutions for different areas will be different depending on a myriad of factors in an ecosystem. He said that something that may work where he is in the Missouri River Basin, may not work as well in the Great Lakes, or vice-versa.

“There are a lot of different things that could be done in different places to control the fish,” Chapman said. “It depends on where you’re at. There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer for every place for Asian carp. You have to figure out what makes sense where you are, and some places it’s going to be much tougher to figure out how to control the fish.”

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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