An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
These maps show the range expansion and distribution of invasive 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, invasive 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 invasive 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.
Invasive 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.
In Kentucky, invasive 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 invasive carp and promote the ‘2007 National Invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive carp issues beyond the upper Illinois River where invasive carp threaten to invade the Great Lakes. The effort to prevent invasive carp from colonizing 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 invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive 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 Invasive Carp Plan viable and ultimately make the control of invasive carp throughout the Mississippi River basin a reality.
The increase in funding to fight invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive carp. By 2015, three processors had been established, and their facilities have led to the harvest of over 1.2 million pounds of invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive carp, and KDFWR will continue to work with those businesses and to help them expand to meet the insatiable market of which surrounds invasive carp. Commercial harvest is the only means of which we have to realistically reduce invasive 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 invasive carp. 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.
Waterfowl hunters, anglers and boaters should anticipate limited access to portions of Pisgah, Smith, Sledd Creek, Ledbetter Creek, and Vickers bays on Kentucky Lake periodically from December to early March as officials evaluate experimental invasive carp harvest techniques.
The harvest techniques will include the use of seines, which will require debris to be cleared from the lake bottom in a smaller 300-foot by 500-foot area of each bay. The cleared areas will be called “Invasive Carp Harvest Areas” and marked with buoys. Maps showing the bays and the designated harvest area in each bay are available below.
On the maps, the areas with orange crosshatching are the portions of the bays that will be closed periodically to boat traffic and blocked off with nets to contain the invasive carp.
Debris will only be removed from the lake bottom in the smaller 300-foot by 500-foot areas denoted by the purple circles on the maps. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife requests that anglers refrain from deploying any fish habitat in the smaller 300-foot by 500-foot areas marked by the “Invasive Carp Harvest Area” buoys.
Clearing of the areas will start in early December. The timing of the harvest activities is being determined and will be posted on the
Western Kentucky Fisheries Facebook page (@westerndistrictfisheries) as more definitive dates are planned.
In general, site preparation and invasive carp harvest in these areas will occur periodically from December to early March. The work will be limited to weekdays during duck season, and boating access at these locations may be affected for up to five days while harvest efforts are underway.
Researchers will experiment with a riverbed bubbler and sound system as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of invasive 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 invasive 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
Tim Farmer and Chad Miles present a tired but jubilant Barry Mann a first prize check.
Commercial fishermen harvested 82,953 pounds of invasive 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 invasive carp swimming in our waters. invasive 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 invasive carp.
Invasive 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.
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 invasive 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 invasive carp each day even with minimal experience.
Fisherman unloading invasive 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 invasive carp in any way we can, even without availability of significant funding. While the federal government has provided funding to keep invasive 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 invasive carp in critical areas and educating the public.
The Carp Madness tournament revealed the passion that many people have concerning problems invasive 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. Invasive 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.
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.
New effort seeks to stop spread of invasive carp
By Lee McClellan
Kentucky’s fisheries officials are stepping up their campaign to educate anglers about the dangers of invasive 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 invasive carp is that they can quickly dominate a body of water, and crowd out the native fish.
Invasive 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 invasive carp along with the native shad.
Young invasive carp look exceptionally similar to native baitfish. Anglers could unintentionally take the young invasive carp to other waters to use as bait, thinking they are shad.
“It is against the law to move live invasive carp,” Brooks explained. “We are starting an awareness campaign about these fish.”
The fisheries division has produced a new Invasive Carp Alert poster that shows the difference between young invasive 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 invasive carp. That way, people can distinguish between invasive carp and our own native species such as shad and skipjack herring.”
Invasive 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 invasive 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 invasive carp,” Brooks said.
Vibrations from boat motors cause one species of invasive 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.
Invasive 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