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
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
"Modified-Unified" carp removal test and results
Asian carp were first introduced to American fish farms and sewage lagoons in the 1960s as a solution to algae blooms and unwanted vegetation. When floods topped dams and carp escaped into the Mississippi River basin by the 1980s, it unleashed decades-long efforts to rid the country’s waterways of these invasive fish.
This document outlines the efforts to stop the spread of Asian carp in Kentucky through the use of science and the free market.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in coordination with the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet’s Office of Finance have initiated programs and regulations to facilitate removal of Asian carp.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has also teamed with several federal and other state agencies to attack the Asian carp problem on two primary fronts: the Ohio River and in western Kentucky.
Ohio River biologists are working to prevent Asian carp from becoming established upstream of Louisville, Kentucky. In western Kentucky, biologists seek to reduce Asian carp numbers in Kentucky and Barkley lakes.
Asian carp threaten the ecosystem and tourism economy surrounding Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Kentucky’s response to this threat is greater than any other state in the lower Mississippi River basin.
Efforts in western Kentucky focused on Asian carp removal, primarily by promoting commercial harvest of carp. Most of this effort received funding through fees generated by fishing licenses, permits and boat registration.
In order to understand the niche that mass harvesting can fill in our goals for removing Asian carp, it is important to understand that there are distinct roles that traditional commercial fishermen have that do not necessarily overlap with mass-harvesting methods.
Commercial fishermen will always be more adaptable in terms of their gear types and the ability to adjust their gear and methods to accommodate water conditions, habitat types and associated complexities. Water conditions and areas suitable for mass-harvesting methods will be more limited. Since we need to approach harvesting Asian carp holistically, both methods can play important roles to their removal. Commercial fishing for Asian carp using traditional gear will always be one important tool for Asian carp removal.
In February 2020, a test of the Modified Unified harvest method was conducted to determine the efficacy of employing the method for two purposes: 1) Harvest Asian carp herded from entire bays in Kentucky Lake; and 2) Determine if expanding the method and using it annually could provide Kentucky Fish and Wildlife with an index of relative abundance which would be comparable from year to year. The method was deployed in two Kentucky Lake bays, Smith and Pisgah. Despite water temperatures in the high 40’s, Asian carp were successfully herded by setting block net combs and systematically clearing each cell.
Water temperatures exceeded norms for February and enabled many carp to leap block nets and seines, but many fish were pushed into corrals in both bays despite the carps’ agility. The fish were successfully surrounded by seines, but negotiating seines over very complex substrates full of snags, both natural and manmade, proved difficult. The structures often tore the seines or caused lead lines to rise, resulting in substantial fish escapement. In spite of the challenges, 69,228 pounds of fish, mostly Asian carp, were harvested from the two bays with four seine hauls. Very few sportfish were seined, and most were released unharmed. Additional seine hauls which would have increased the total harvest were not possible due to other time constraints.
With adjustments, the 2020 efforts revealed good potential for the Modified Unified Method to be successful in Kentucky waters, and possibly throughout the Mississippi River Basin.
Future research will examine adjustments in net designs to repel most escapements during driving and seining. We will also explore manpower efficiencies using less equipment and staff to drive, seine, and harvest fish. Ideal harvest areas will also be identified and prepared before starting the next effort.
The potential for this system to be useful for mass removal of Asian carp in reservoir bays and in other lakes remains very high. The system will provide a tool additional to traditional commercial harvesting. In order to avoid competition with other commercial fishermen, markets that ordinarily would not pay enough (per pound) to small commercial fishermen but which will pay prices suitable for mass harvests will be utilized.
Efforts by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reach out to the U.S. Department of the Interior were instrumental in this project. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife appreciates all the effort and equipment provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and its talented staff, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its talented staff, the core of which stayed the entire time of the effort. The department also would like to acknowledge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff for its assistance and taking a leading role in important media events. The U.S. Forest Service staff at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area accommodated closures to the two bays during the test period, removing packing materials used to haul the new nets, and assisted with paperwork that made it possible to bring a barge to Smith Bay. The TVA provided boats for the media event, and we appreciate assistance of staffs from Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Indiana. Interest in this project compelled volunteers from many agencies, local governments, and private businesses, and they were vital to the success of this project.
Challenges of this magnitude compel us to cooperation, and the success of this trial was evidence of what we can do when we all work together.
Testing Sound as a Deterrent for Asian Carp Movement
Researchers will experiment with a riverbed bubbler and sound system as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of Asian carp throughout the Mississippi River basin. European technology originally designed to steer migrating salmon back into main river channels will be tested below Barkley Dam in western Kentucky as an environmentally friendly way to block passage of Asian carp upstream. The Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) creates a curtain of bubbles, and in conjunction with a special sound signal, produces an underwater “wall of sound” designed to deter the passage of fish. News Release with additional information
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.