Potential for Asian Carp in Great Lakes Could Cause Problems

By Andy Whitcomb

Jul 24, 2017

Asian carp are a threat to the Great Lakes. They are difficult to stop and tricky to catch. Here’s why.

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

The Asian “carp” are the bighead carp, silver carp, and black carp and are not related to the common carp.  The eyes and mouth of the bighead carp and its more acrobatic kinfolk the silver carp, seem to have drifted strangely out of place. You may have seen videos of asian carp fishing with them jumping when startled by boat motors. 

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

Why the big concerns of Asian carp in the Great Lakes?

If Asian carp reach the Great Lakes the balance of the system may tip. These fish are highly tolerant of temperature extremes and low dissolved oxygen, so they can survive conditions other fish can’t. They grow rapidly and can weigh over 60 pounds. To achieve this growth, these “planktivores” must consume great amounts of plankton which would normally feed all other larval fish species, and such mild-mannered native fish as bigmouth buffalo, paddlefish, and gizzard shad.

Thus, Asian carp fishing is tricky and there is not a lot of  carp fishing tips. Tiny plankton doesn’t exactly fit well on a hook. When trying to figure out how to catch asian carp, one method for 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 dough ball with a “nest” of tiny hooks tied above it so that they dangle around the dough ball. One report claimed success with cheese. And some fly fishermen have hooked them using heavy minnow patterns. Bow fishing is yet another option.

If anglers find Asian carp in the Great Lakes, we’ll just have to make “lemonade” out of the situation and try to make the most out of Asian carp fishing because in some places on the Mississippi river, they have become the dominant species. Please do your part to prevent the spread of these and other invasive species. The Great Lakes is an amazing fishery and it needs our protection. Funds from your fishing license and boat registration will help do just that.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.