Asian Carp Information

 

Asian Carp Identification
Distribution
Impacts
Laws and Regulations
Report Sightings
KDFWR Plan of Action and Partners
Current Projects
Publicity
Recreation Opportunities
Preparing and Cooking

 

Asian Carp Identification

             Young Carp look remarkably similar to common baitfish. An accidental release of carp into Kentucky's lakes and streams could have dire consequences on the ecosystem and boater safety. Carp reproduce at a staggering rates and grow quickly, rapidly consuming food sources valuable to other species detects the vibrations of boat engines they will jump clear of the water surface, becoming a hazard for boaters.
     
 
Carp watch Bighead Carp and Silver Carp
 
 
 
 

Asian Carp Distribution

These maps show the range expansion and distribution of Asian Carp in the Upper Missouri River (UMRB) and Ohio River Basins (ORB)(basins shaded grey). Green circles represent occurrences from the USGS NAS Database before 2012. Red triangles indicate occurrences from 2012 through 2014.  The distribution in Kentucky has expanded in recent years.  As of 2012, both bighead and silver carp occur commonly in the Mississippi River and the Ohio River up into the Meldahl pool. Bighead carp have been reported all of the way up into the Greenup pool. In addition to the main rivers, these species have also been found in most of their tributaries. This includes the Tennessee, Cumberland, Green and Kentucky rivers along with several others. Recently, Asian Carp have been found in the tailwaters of Taylorsville Lake (Salt River), Green River Lake (Green River) and are assumed to be in the Barren River Lake tailwaters (Barren River). Large populations of Asian Carp are found in both Kentucky and Barkley lakes in western Kentucky, and most backwater lakes in western Kentucky associated with the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

Asian Carp Distribution
 

 

Impacts

Asian carp are an invasive species that are detrimental to native species in Kentucky. They can out compete native species for resources and some females are capable of producing over 1 million eggs annually, causing their numbers to grow at an alarming rate. Additionally, silver carp pose a danger to boaters due to the jumping behavior they exhibit when startled. As a result, this behavior can put them on a collision course with boaters causing injury to individuals and property.

 

 

Laws and Regulations 

 

Report Asian Carp Sightings

If you capture an Asian carp in a previously unlisted area, please take a photo of the fish and contact KDFWR. Jessica Morris, Fisheries Biologist, 270-759-5295

KDFWR Plan of Action and Partners

Asian Carp in Kentucky

In Kentucky, Asian carp have reproductively established populations from the Cannelton Pool of the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. The invasive fish are found in most of Kentucky’s tributaries of the two large rivers and in two of our most prominent reservoirs: Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Three species of carps (bighead, silver, and grass) are reproducing at alarming rates and threaten Kentucky’s aquatic ecology. The fish are outcompeting native fishes for forage, becoming over populated, and because of their propensity to jump, silver carp can be harmful to recreational boaters. These species have the ability to produce over 1 million eggs per large adult each year, and where conditions are suitable for reproduction, their numbers cannot be controlled by agency efforts alone.

 

KDFWR has been working with private fish processors, commercial fishermen, state and federal legislators, foreign businesses, and many local, state and federal agencies to foster interest in the removal of Asian carp and promote the ‘2007 National Asian Carp Management Plan’; a plan developed and approved by personnel from many governmental agencies.

 

The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) is comprised of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fisheries divisions of 28 state fish and wildlife agencies, USGS, USFS, and the USACE. In 2010, KDFWR began to engage MICRA concerning the lower Mississippi basin’s Asian carp issues and we have taken a leading role in procuring USFWS assistance and funding since that time. Each year since 2011, MICRA has sent state delegates to Washington D.C. in an effort to educate Congress and their staffs about Asian Carp issues beyond the upper Illinois River where Asian carp threaten to invade the Great Lakes. The effort to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes has received a tremendous amount of attention and funding. However, the rest of the Mississippi River basin was previously left out of discussions concerning funding resources to control or reduce their numbers and to prevent large-scale expansion up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

 

In 2014, largely as a result of the MICRA delegation visits, Congress amended the Water Resource Reform and Development ACT (WRRDA) to help states fight Asian carp. The USFWS was awarded $2.3 million to assist states in the upper Mississippi River and upper Ohio River (above the McAlpine Lock and Dam). States in each sub-basin working with the USFWS were provided $400,000 in 2015 which was divided among the states. Kentucky received $235,000 of the $400,000 provided to Ohio river states in 2015 to assist with Asian carp monitoring, movement, control, and rapid response efforts. In 2016, the USFWS was given $2.6 million by Congress, and Kentucky is to receive a minimum of $235,000 for the Asian carp projects. Additional to those funds, every state with an aquatic nuisance species plan receives about $23,000 annually to fight aquatic nuisance species (ANS). MICRA’s efforts in the past few years have resulted in doubling the annual ANS fund received from the USFWS to $46,000. The proceeds from each of those funds are highly leveraged by funding that KDFWR has dedicated to managing Asian carp in our waters. This Department continues to take a leadership role to compel states and the federal government to reach a level of effort and funding that will make the 2007 National Asian carp plan viable and ultimately make the control of Asian carp throughout the Mississippi River basin a reality.

 

The increase in funding to fight Asian carp has allowed KDFWR to increase its staff accordingly. Today we have three crews stationed in Frankfort and one in western Kentucky who are dedicated to our aquatic nuisance species efforts. Those crews head state efforts to assess movement habits of the carps using sonic telemetry, they annually are assessing carp abundance relative to other fish species in the Ohio River, and they are on the water every week with a goal of removing every Asian carp they can find. Additional to that work, KDFWR is leading efforts to begin testing harvest methodologies and new sound and pheromone technologies developed by the USGS that will help us and the commercial industry harvest more fish. Our goal is to find ways to enhance Asian carp processing businesses; our most important resource concerning large-scale removal of these invasive fish.

 

In 2013, KDFWR held the first ever commercial fishing tournament (Carp Madness 2013) in Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Since that tournament, KDFWR has received many requests for information concerning establishing fish processing plants that would make products from Asian carp. By 2015, three processors had been established, and their facilities have led to the harvest of over 1.2 million pounds of Asian carp in 2015; over 800,000 pounds from Kentucky and Barkley lakes. KDFWR assisted those businesses in getting started and we have developed special regulations to facilitate their efforts to remove Asian carp from Kentucky and Barkley lakes and other waters where commercial fishing in not allowed. Challenges remain to the new industry which is focused on harvesting mainly Asian carp, and KDFWR will continue to work with those businesses and to help them expand to meet the insatiable market of which surrounds Asian carp. Commercial harvest is the only means of which we have to realistically reduce Asian carp numbers in those two important reservoirs, and KDFWR will do everything we can to promote additional harvest.

             

KDFWR will continue to update this website in an effort to let everyone know that we have not turned away from issues posed by the invasive Asian carps. We will continue to press for technologies and funding avenues that will ensure our efforts can be expanded. We appreciate everyone’s support in this effort.

 

Ohio River Fisheries Management Team (ORFMT) Report on Strategies for Managing Asian Carp in the Ohio River Watershed

The ORFMT has released a report detailing strategies for controlling the spread of asian carp and reducing populations where they are already established.  The report is available here.  The Asian Carp Harvest Program is also available to view.

 

Visit AsianCarp.us for more information on Asian carp in the Midwest

     

Current Projects

Ohio River Projects

Monitoring and Response of Asian Carp in the Ohio River

KDFWR is partnering with surrounding state and federal agencies to provide surveillance, early detection, distribution, and an understanding of Asian carp populations in the Ohio River. In addition, fish community surveys are being used to monitor native fish populations in areas where Asian carp have invaded. This information is being used to structure removal and response efforts throughout the basin.

Abundance and Distribution of Early Life Stages of Asian Carp in the Ohio River

The goal of this project is to determine the farthest up-river extent where Asian carp are naturally and successfully reproducing in the Ohio River. Furthermore, an effort to characterize the potential nursery habitats that may support Asian carp juveniles will aid in future control of the populations.

Control and Removal of Asian Carp in the Ohio River

This project aims to control Asian carp populations in higher density pools (below Markland Locks and Dam) using targeted removal. Some different sampling and removal techniques are also being tested in order to increase capture efficiency.

Containment and Suppression of Asian carp in the Upper Ohio River

Asian carp in the upper pools of the Ohio River may be tagged so that their movement can be tracked over time. This provides information for managers when designing best practices or structuring a response protocol to limit up-river expansion. All Asian carp that are not tagged are euthanized after being captured in an effort to suppress the invasive population’s range.

Distribution, Movement, and Lock and Dam Passage of Asian Carp in the Ohio River

Using ultrasonic telemetry, KDFWR is working with USFWS and other agencies to track the movements of tagged Asian carp over a 500-mile stretch of river using stationary receivers that record passing fish. This helps to understand their general movements, tributary use, and the frequency of lock and dam passage. All of this information is used to direct agency removal efforts in Ohio River waters.

Western Kentucky Projects

Silver Carp Demographics in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley

Through this project KDFWR staff visit a local fish market bi-monthly to collect data on silver carp. The data collected includes silver carp age, growth rates, sex ratios and fertility and will be used to establish baseline data for assessment of removal efforts as Asian carp populations continue to expand.

Tailwater Sport Fish Assessment

The goals of this project are to monitor species composition and abundance of fish in the tailwaters of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake Dam. This will enable KDFWR to identify trends over time and determine if there are any effects of increased populations of Asian carp on sport fish populations. Another aspect of this project is conducting creel surveys in the tailwaters to compare current angler use and catch statistics to those collected in previous creel surveys.

Tennessee River Silver Carp Telemetry

KDFWR has partnered with several universities and resource agencies along the Tennessee River to quantify spatial and temporal movements of silver carp throughout the river system. Currently, 15 stationary receivers have been deployed throughout Kentucky Lake and almost 100 silver carp have been tagged with acoustic tags.

Monitoring Asian Carp Harvest Program Impacts

In 2013, KDFWR initiated the Asian Carp Harvest Program (ACHP) that allows commercial anglers targeting Asian carp to fish in previously restricted areas, including Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Commercial anglers are required to submit daily harvest logs and allow KDFWR staff to routinely ride along to monitor sport fish bycatch. In 2016, commercial anglers harvested over 1.2 million pounds of Asian carp through the ACHP without having any negative effects on sport fish.

Identifying New Gear Types for Capture of Asian Carp

This project is designed to identify and evaluate new gear types for capturing silver and bighead carp in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. KDFWR has partnered with the USFWS to sample the lakes with the Paupier net system in the spring summer and fall. The Paupier net proved successful at capturing silver carp from the lakes in both fall of 2016 and spring of 2017. KDFWR has also worked with commercial processors to test some net systems used in China to capture Asian carp.
 
USFWS Paupier Net (Photo: Jessica Morris)
 
         Asian Carp Madness
 
 
      Tim Farmer and Chad Miles present a tired but jubilant Barry Mann a first prize check.         

Tim Farmer and Chad Miles present a tired but jubilant Barry Mann a first prize check.

 

Commercial fishermen harvested 82,953 pounds of Asian carp during the country’s first freshwater commercial fishing tournament, held on Kentucky and Barkley lakes March 12-13, 2013.

This inaugural tournament is an innovative way to limit the number of Asian carp swimming in our waters. Asian carp are detrimental to major recreational industries and aquatic ecologies everywhere that these invasive species reside.

Many volunteers and department employees made the tournament go. A $5,000 contribution from The League of Kentucky Sportsmen helped fund the $20,000 awarded to the top five teams. Many others donated equipment, facilities, and expertise to help make this tournament a success.

Fifteen teams started the tournament; 11 teams fished both days. Participants ranged from wily veterans who fish the reservoirs almost daily during the special net season to amateurs who just wanted to help remove Asian carp.

Asian carp harvest by the most experienced teams exceeded expectations: Barry Mann’s winning team harvested 28,669 pounds and took home the $10,000 grand prize. Heath Frailley and his crew took the second-place prize of $5,000 with 22,005 pounds.

Silver Fin co-owner and commercial fisherman Ronnie Hopkins takes the media for a ride on a carp catching tour.

Silver Fin co-owner and commercial fisherman Ronnie Hopkins takes the media for a ride on a carp catching tour.

The two teams frequently net fish in the reservoirs during this time of year. Although their experience was a valuable asset, each team was driven to win. Their tenacity was incredible.

A team headed by Kentucky fisherman Owen Trainer captured third place with a total of 7,788 pounds. The Trainer Team almost exited the tournament after failing to net more than a few carp in the first day. Their persistence, however, netted them $3,000 in prize money.

Despite fishing only the first day, Ben Duncan’s team from Tennessee took fourth place and $2,000 with 7,160 pounds. Duncan, a school teacher, could only take one day off from work. He took a personal day to help remove Asian carp.

Joe Bommarito took fifth place and a $1,000 prize with 4,340 pounds of fish.

This tournament was important for many reasons. Commercial fishermen clearly showed that they can harvest tons of Asian carp each day even with minimal experience.

Fisherman unloading Asian carp from his boat into the shipping totes.

Fisherman unloading Asian carp from his boat into the shipping totes.

Anglers working as volunteer observers witnessed few sportfish in the nets. Sportfish mortality was minimal. The tournament revealed that experienced commercial fishermen can direct their effort at invasive fish species without significant consequences to bass, bream, catfish, white bass and crappie.

This tournament underscores this department’s resolve to fight the invasion of Asian carp in any way we can, even without availability of significant funding. While the federal government has provided funding to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, more financial support is needed for other areas where the problem exists. Our hope is that innovative projects such as the Carp Madness Tournament can make a difference by helping to reduce numbers of Asian carp in critical areas and educating the public.

The Carp Madness tournament revealed the passion that many people have concerning problems Asian carp pose in our waters. Volunteers came from as far away as Maine to help make this tournament a success. They came without asking for money or notoriety - their actions epitomize what is good about most people. Asian carp are harming our natural resources and important economies, and this is cause enough for many to reach out in support of any control measures - and we thank everyone who helped or sponsored this effort.

   
 
                   
 

KDFWR Articles

ASIAN INVADERS

With eyes at the bottom of their heads, these carp are definitely aliens

By Dave Dreves

Bighead carp and silver carp are two of the latest invaders of Kentucky’s waters. Arkansas fish farmers originally imported these carp from Asia in the 1970s to control plankton in ponds. However, these carp escaped captivity during floods and began appearing in major river drainages of the midwest and southern United States in the early 1980s. The fish have adapted extremely well to many of the tributaries, wetlands and slough lakes adjacent to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in the western part of Kentucky. Bighead carp have migrated as far upstream on the Ohio River as the Markland pool in northern Kentucky and can be found in sections of the Tennessee, lower Cumberland, Kentucky and Green rivers as well as Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. Silver carp are less of a big river fish and haven’t made it past Louisville on the Ohio River.

Silver carp spook easily at the sound of an approaching boat and have the unusual habit of jumping several feet out of the water… sometimes into the boat!

Bighead carp and silver carp are members of the group Hypophthalmichthys, which means “under eye fish.” The eyes of both fish are very low on the side of the head. Bighead carp may exceed 80 pounds while silver carp may top 50 pounds. Bighead carp have a dark gray back, an off-white belly, and numerous irregular black or brownish-orange blotches along the sides. Silver carp, as their name implies, are completely silver. Both fish have a ridge, or “keel,” along their bellies. This ridge extends from the tail to the first set of lower fins in the bighead carp, and from the tail to the throat of the silver carp.

The environmental impacts of these fish are not yet completely understood, but there is serious concern that these carp will harm larval fish and mussel populations by competing directly with them for food. Some larval and juvenile fish species, including most of the species important to sport fisherman, feed on plankton.

Since both of these fish are filter feeders, they are not routinely caught on conventional fishing gear but they are occasionally snagged. Both fish reportedly make good table fare for the person willing to remove the many bones and the undesirable strip of red meat along the sides.

Educating Anglers

New effort seeks to stop spread of Asian carp

By Lee McClellan

Kentucky’s fisheries officials are stepping up their campaign to educate anglers about the dangers of Asian carp.

“Anglers have to be aware of this threat,” said Ron Brooks, director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Responsible people will not want these things in their lakes and reservoirs.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s new education effort includes posters and wallet-sized cards warning anglers. The problem with Asian carp is that they can quickly dominate a body of water, and crowd out the native fish.

Asian carp can invade new bodies of water by accident. Anglers throwing cast nets for bait in the tailwaters of Kentucky and Barkley lakes or beneath locks and dams on the Ohio River may capture young Asian carp along with the native shad.

Young Asian carp look exceptionally similar to native baitfish. Anglers could unintentionally take the young Asian carp to other waters to use as bait, thinking they are shad.

“It is against the law to move live Asian carp,” Brooks explained. “We are starting an awareness campaign about these fish.”

The fisheries division has produced a new Asian Carp Alert poster that shows the difference between young Asian carp and native shad. A wallet-sized card is in the works.

“We are going to hang the poster at bait shops, marinas, license vendors and other places anglers gather,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We’ll distribute the cards in areas of the state with Asian carp. That way, people can distinguish between Asian carp and our own native species such as shad and skipjack herring.”

Asian carp inhabit the Ohio River in thick numbers from the Falls of the Ohio in Louisville downstream to the Mississippi River. They also exist in the lower reaches of major tributaries to the Ohio. Fisheries personnel recently discovered Asian carp in the Salt River below Taylorsville Lake.

These invaders grow quickly - and reproduce at rates that boggle the mind. “I’ve had reports from snaggers below Kentucky and Barkley lakes that quit going because all they get are Asian carp,” Brooks said.

Vibrations from boat motors cause one species of Asian carp, the silver carp, to spook and jump clear out of the water, creating hazardous boating conditions.

Anglers must not spread this menace to other waters in Kentucky by accident. The easy solution is also the simple solution: Use your baitfish in the same water body where you collected it.

Recreational Opportunities

Asian carp species can provide increased recreational opportunities for sportsman through bowfishing and snagging.
 

Bow Fishing

In recent years the sport of bow-fishing has become a popular pastime for many sportsman and sportswomen. Whether launching an arrow from a boat or the bank, it takes great skill and patience to be successful. However, there are many willing to rise to the challenge! Although there are several species of fish that can be taken using a bow, the sport has gained popularity as Asian carp numbers have increased. Other legal rough fish species one might encounter include gar, buffalo, common carp, and grass carp. It is illegal to bowfish for any sportfish species so make sure you know what fish you’re aiming at before letting your arrow fly.
 
(301 KAR 1:410): Rough fish may be taken year-round by bow and arrow with line attached. Sport fish may not be taken with a bow and arrow. Bow anglers may use a long bow, recurve bow, crossbow or compound bow. Arrows must have a barbed or retractable style point that has a line attached for retrieval. Catfish have a daily creel limit of 5 (in aggregate) and paddlefish have a daily creel limit of 2. There is no limit on other rough fish. Bow anglers may fish within 200 yards of a dam, except by boat in boat restricted areas. Bow fishing is prohibited on the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam downstream to the Tennessee line, including Hatchery Creek and all tributaries for ½ mile upstream of their confluence with the Cumberland River.
Persons using a bow and arrow for fishing must have the appropriate fishing license and may take rough fish from bank or boat. There is no limit on other rough fish. Bow anglers cannot sell paddlefish (or their roe) taken by bow and arrow. Paddlefish and catfish taken by bow and arrow must be taken into immediate possession and cannot be culled. Fish taken by bow must not be discarded on the bank. Bank disposal is littering and subject to a fine.
     

Snagging

Snagging is a tried and true method for many fishermen to land a paddlefish. However, with the increasing numbers of Asian carp you now have a better chance of landing one of them than any other species. A typical bass rod and reel will not cut it for this intense sport. An initial investment in a rod and reel designed specifically for snagging is the best option for your gear, along with the appropriate treble hooks and weights for the water current where you’re fishing. No baits or lures are needed to catch ‘The Big One’. Although the gear and technique may seem simple, actually hoisting in a 20 pound fish can be an adrenaline rush and exhausting at the same time. As always, make sure you have read through the regulations for snagging, including season dates and locations permitted before you head out.
 
 
  • (301 KAR 1:410, 1:082; KRS 150.010): Gigging means spearing or impaling fish on any pronged or barbed instrument attached to the end of any rigid object. Snagging means taking fish or other aquatic animals by a rapid drawing motion (rather than enticement by bait) using a hand-held pole and attached line with one single treble hook. Except, in Green River, Rolling Fork River and their tributaries, up to five single or five treble hooks may be used for snagging. A rod legal for snagging must be equipped with line, guides and a reel. The statewide season for gigging and/or snagging rough fish is from February 1 through May 10. It is illegal to possess a gig on a stream or lake or in a boat from November 1 through January 31. A person may gig or snag fish from the bank of a stream during the day or night. Gigging and snagging is not legal from a platform or boat, except that gigging is legal from a boat on lakes 500 surface acres or larger and only during daylight hours. There is a statewide limit of 2 paddlefish for either gigging or snagging (except for the Tennessee River below Kentucky Lake and the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley). All gigged or snagged paddlefish must be taken into possession and cannot be culled or released. Anglers must cease gigging or snagging once they attain the 2 paddlefish daily creel limit. It is illegal to sell paddlefish or their roe taken by sportfish snagging methods. No daily limits on any other rough fish. Regardless of condition, all sport fish taken by gigging and snagging must be immediately returned to the water. Persons may gig rough fish through the ice any time the surface is frozen thick enough to stand upon. The gigger must gig while supported by the ice. Gigging and snagging are prohibited in the following waters or areas:
  • Cave Run Lake including all tributaries up to the first riffle (The location of the first riffle may change depending on water level).
  • Cumberland River, below Wolf Creek Dam downstream to the Tennessee line including all of Hatchery Creek and all tributaries for ½ mile upstream of their confluence with the Cumberland River.
  • Within 200 yards of a dam, except below Kentucky Dam.
  • Cumberland River, below Barkley Dam downstream to the U.S. 62 bridge.
  • Tennessee River, below Kentucky Dam from the new U.S. 62 bridge to I-24 bridge.
  • Middle Fork of Kentucky River from Buckhorn Lake downstream to the Breathitt County line.
  • Rough River, below Rough River Dam to KY 54 bridge.
  • In the Tennessee River below Kentucky Dam, gigging prohibited year round. For special regulations concerning gigging and snagging in the Cumberland River below Barkley Dam and in the Tennessee River below Kentucky Lake refer to Special Regulations.
 

Preparing and Cooking

Asian carp are a great tasting fish that can be served a variety of different ways. Please view the video and recipes below for filleting and cooking suggestions.

Select link to view video