Carp dying off is a good thing locally

Published 12:01am Sunday, September 22, 2013

The news in the fishing scene continues to be about the dying of the Silver and Bighead carp in our Old River lakes and the rivers near Jonesville.

Many people have seen the videos of these crazy fish jumping out of the water by the hundreds as they flee from the noise of outboard motors. Many people in this area have witnessed the insanity of hundreds of fish leaping 4 to 6 feet in the air. Even with these fish dying by the thousands, there are plenty more where they came from.

The reason for the die off, which is a good thing, is these non-native fish cannot tolerate high water temperature and low oxygen content. The Mississippi River, as well as other rivers, are loaded with this invasive species from Asia, as are the Old Rivers, the Tensas River and all adjoining waters.

I have been hit in the back and the head, and these nasty, slimy fish have jumped in my boat numerous times. I’ve had customers come in with broken ribs, knots on their head and stories to tell of the jumping carp. In addition to being hazardous to you, these fish are really hurting our native game fish population.

One thing’s for sure, when you get among a group of these non-native fish, there will be no native fish around. Anyone fishing this area much has noticed a huge decline in the game fish population. The Silver carp are the jumpers. The other Asian carp is the Bighead. They don’t spook from outboard motor noise like the Silver carp. Regardless, both of these nonnative, invasive species are certainly not welcome in our waters.

Both species can spawn three to four times a year. As far as I can tell from Internet research, these fish escaped from flooded catfish ponds in the 1980s. Catfish farmers used them to keep the algae and moss out of the farm ponds. The ponds flooded, and now we have Asian carp in all of our waters except for the landlocked bodies. The problem has been serious for nearly 10 years, but it’s just becoming apparent to most people that our game fish population is dwindling because of these carp.

The amazing thing is how fast they grow. A Bighead carp can grow up to 6 pounds in one year. That’s just crazy. They can reach weights of up to 80 pounds. It’s a good thing the Bighead carp are not the jumpers, because an 80-pound jumping fish could kill someone.

The Silver carp are fast growers, too. They can grow as much as 2.2 pounds per year and can reach weights of up to 60 pounds or more. I have yet to see a 60-pound Silver carp and I don’t want to see one. This is a serious problem, and I hope there is something that can be done about it.

I am really not sure how millions of fish can be removed from hundreds of rivers and backwaters. In the meantime, the recent rain was a big plus for lakes Concordia, St. John and Bruin, as well as all of our lakes. We needed the freshwater, and we really need this cooler weather to lower the water temperature.

Several of the landlocked lakes experienced a fish kill over the past week or so. Just looking at the water clarity of the lakes a week or so ago, I assumed this was an algae bloom. The water was a weird shade of green on most of the landlocked oxbow lakes. Any waters that I saw in the past several decades with that strange color, a fish kill soon followed.

Well, we had a fish kill less than week after the water turned to what I describe as “English pea green.” It’s a natural thing on the landlocked lakes. Wind, rain and cooler water will clear the water up from the algae bloom — if that’s what caused the fish kill. You can bet there are still some fish to be caught from the lakes.

The recent wet and cooler weather will be a game-changer in the fishing world. It’s about time. This summer was the worst fishing season I can recall in 40 years. Hopefully, conditions will change as the air cools down and we can get back to more successful days on the water.