Asian Carp Have Arrived in Lower Wisconsin River!

by Free Speech on August 16, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Illinois River Silver Carp

Invasives Hit Home; Bighead Carp Caught on the Lower Wisconsin River

I’ve been reading and receiving press releases for the past year on the threat of the bighead and silver carp entering the Great Lakes from the Illinois River and Chicago Sanitary Canal that connects to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. There is an electric shock barrier to prevent invasive fish from entering Lake Michigan, but DNA samples of the invasive carp have been found on the other side of these barriers. The silver and bighead carp are the two Asian carp species that have DNR and Federal officials worried. These fish were originally brought to this country by Southern fish farmers and have been migrating north up the Mississippi River for decades since their escape from holding ponds in the South. Recently, a bighead carp was caught below the Prairie du Sac Dam on the Lower Wisconsin (LWR) and traces of the silver carp DNA were found last month in the St. Croix River.

According to Bob Wakeman, who oversees the Wisconsin DNR’s efforts to control and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, “High water levels on the Mississippi River are enabling more Asian carp to move farther into Wisconsin waters.” Asian carp have been reported along the Wisconsin western border with the Mississippi River since 1996, but this is the first time that a bighead carp was reported in the Lower Wisconsin River. The number of invasive carp has grown tremendously in some areas of the Mississippi River and Illinois River and some “strays” have reached Wisconsin waters for decades. But, the fish reported have been “strays” and not the huge numbers that are now found further south along the Mississippi River and its many tributaries. The Illinois River is only a few hours south of Madison, Wisconsin down Highway 39. The threat of these fish to our fisheries is what really has state and federal officials concerned. Both bighead and silver carp eat plankton and can hurt native fish that rely on plankton for food. A bighead carp can eat 20% of its body weight each day! This is really scary to native fish populations. Most of the concern has been centered on the Great Lakes and the damage that could be done to the fisheries that so many people depend on for recreation and livelihoods in all states that border the Great Lakes.

So far, there have been no reports of any Asian carp reproduction in any Wisconsin waters, according to John Lyons, DNR fisheries researcher. This is the good part, but the mere threat of these invasives entering our fisheries is a major problem that must be faced in the not so distant future. There are also are dams on the Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac and on the St. Croix Riverway at St. Croix Falls which prevent the carp from traveling to inland lakes and there are measures also being put into place to help slow this spread of invasive carp. There is a fish passage being worked on at the Prairie du Sac Dam to stop invasive species from moving further inland in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has been doing many things to prevent the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species by banning the sale, transport, possession and introduction of bighead, black, grass, and silver carp, enacting ballast water treatment standards, to banning the harvest of baitfish from the Mississippi river and its tributaries. The state is also doing research to find ways of eradicating these invasive species and stopping there spread to other waters. This research is also being done with other state agencies along the Mississippi River to stop the spread of these harmful species. Minnesota is using electrofishing boats and nets to look for fish below the St. Croix Falls dam where the silver carp DNA was detected. A bighead carp was captured at the mouth of the St. Croix River earlier this year. The Minnesota DNR reported that 22 of 50 samples taken on a 4.3 mile stretch of the St. Croix River tested positive for silver carp. This stretch of river is about 50 miles upstream from the St. Croix’s confluence with the Mississippi river at Prescott, Wisconsin.

A problem that has occurred is that the Federal government is more concerned with the problems that are facing the Great Lakes region and not the Mississippi River region. It is possible to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes by cutting the connection from the two water systems, but the options available on the Mississippi River are fewer because the dams on the Mississippi River are not high enough to block the carp movement upriver and the other option of closing down the dam locks are minimal because this would entail an act of Congress which is almost impossible. The best plan would to be to give some of the Federal attention and funding back to the Mississippi River basin area. A plan, involving the bordering states, to prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species in the area and containing those that are already here from spreading is what is needed for our waters to remain carp free.

Anglers must continue to follow the Wisconsin DNR plan of cleaning your boat of aquatic “hitchhikers” and follow all rules concerning invasive species of fish. This invasion of carp must be stopped or contained because the future of the Lower Wisconsin River and the inland waters of Wisconsin are at stake. This must be a priority for Wisconsin, bordering states, and the Federal government if are waters are going remain healthy and free of invasive species.  If you happen to catch a fish that you are suspicious of take a picture and freeze the fish for DNR officials to examine. This is a problem that will concern us and the waters will love well into the future. This problem must not be a partisan battle, but one where we must work with the Feds, neighboring states, and individuals to solve or at least contain the spread of Asian carp in our waters. Otherwise, our waters and fish habitat is something that will deteriorate for future generations of anglers and those who depend on our waters for their living!

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