While stories about the invasion of Asian carp in the waters of the Mississippi River and its tributaries have largely faded from the headlines, all one has to do is look at the results of a two-day professional fishing tournament in Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake to realize the fish that can weigh more than 100 pounds remain a major threat to other fish that populate the rivers, streams and lakes in Kentucky.
Using nets, the professional anglers pulled 82,953 pounds of Asian carp from the two western Kentucky lakes during the two-day tournament in which they were vying for a top prize of $10,000. While netting more than 41 tons of Asian carp in less than two days sounds like a lot of fish — and it is — it was less than half the goal of 100 tons of Asian carp the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife had set for the tournament. Twenty fishing teams signed up for the tournament, but only 11 teams brought in fish for weighing. Whether the other nine teams failed to catch Asian carp or they did not catch enough to be competitive is not known.
The tons of fish caught were taken to a processing plant in Mississippi where they were harvested for fish oils and used in pet foods. While some claim Asian carp can be quite tasty, few are willing to try it because the river carp in this region are virtually inedible and not at all tasty. It has been suggested the best way to develop a commercial market for Asian carp is to change its name.
Asian carp infiltrated the Mississippi River in the 1970s after getting loose from fish farms. Federal officials, worried about the species reaching the Great Lakes, are conducting a study to investigate how Asian carp DNA got into rivers and canals in the Chicago area.
Ron Brooks, Kentucky’s fisheries director, said one species of the problem fish, the silver carp, is prone to leaping out of the water when agitated by boat noise, which can injure boaters and skiers. He said state officials will make tweaks to the next tournament to attract more fishing teams.
The two-day tournament “validated some of the things we had thought, that good skilled fishermen can come in there and take out 10,000 pounds a day; all you have to do is create a market,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini. The fish can be harvested to produce fertilizers, pet foods and fish oil products, he said. They are also edible.
State officials are concerned about the rapid spread of the Asian carp in Barkley and Kentucky lakes. The carp breed faster than some native species and eat the algae and zooplankton other fish depend on. The large carp are a threat to all other fish in the two lakes, including the ones anglers most want.
Marraccini is right. Finding a commercial market for the Asian carp may be the best way to control the population. But until that happens, the large carp will be considered a nuisance and a threat to the freshwater lakes in the state, When more than 80,000 pounds of Asian carp can be caught in nets in two Kentucky lakes in just two days, it is a clear indication of just how big of a threat Asian carp are in Kentucky.