Two of Kentucky’s most important fishing spots–those used both commercially and for recreation–are under attack by a large number of Asian carp. The invasive species pose an economic threat to states across the country and even worse, disrupt native environments by consuming vast amounts of plankton. Visitors to Kentucky and Barkley lakes report sighting vast schools of the fish just below the surface.
“They grow large–a bighead carp caught in Missouri weighed 111 pounds–and breed prolifically,” said Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR). “Young sport fish like crappie and bass, and other plankton feeders such as paddlefish, shad, and buffalo, are being robbed of the food they need to thrive.”
Now the DFWR is fighting back, with a lot of help from commercial fishermen. The department is kicking off an increased focus on Asian carp with their Carp Madness Tournament, which took place last week on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Twenty-one commercial fishing teams from around the country enlisted to take on the invasive species. According to the department, the two-day tournament ended with nearly 83,000 pounds of Asian carp removed from the lakes.
Volunteers stood watch and made sure any sportfish that were caught in the nets were returned to the water safely. Asian carp, however, were hauled aboard in droves.
“We were in them all day long,” said fisherman Barry Mann. “They were still jumping around the boat when we had to leave. What we went for was 20,000 pounds. We were pleased with our weight.”
Mann’s team snagged the top prize of $10,000 with 28,670 pounds of carp.
“The 40 tons of carp removed during this tournament is not insignificant, but this is only a drop in the proverbial bucket,” said Brooks. “The results were as clear as is the message: We must employ the commercial industry to remove Asian carp.”
To that end the department is calling for donations to help fund future tournaments and carp-related projects.
“This problem was not manufactured by Kentuckians, but it is us who need to attack it now, before the Asian carp cause insurmountable harm to our aquatic resources,” Brooks urged.
Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey/National Park Service, featured slider image copyright iStockPhoto/Sergiy Goruppa