Asian Carp

Invasive Carp Information

​​​​​​​​​​​​Invasive Carp Identification
Laws and Regulations
KDFWR Plan of Action and Partners
Current Projects
Recreation Opportunities
Preparing and Cooking

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 Invasive 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  

Invasive Carp Distribution

These maps show the distribution of silver, bighead, and black carp throughout the Mississippi River Basin as of 2021.  The final map describes the relative abundance of invasive carp within the Mississippi River Basin. In addition to high abundance in the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland river​​s; invasive carp have been documented in the tailwaters of Taylorsville Lake (Salt River), Green River Lake (Green River) and Barren River Lake (Barren River).​

Invasive Carp Distribution
Invasive Carp Relative Abundance
 Report Sightings: If you capture an invasive carp in a previously unlisted area, please take a photo of the fish and contact KDFWR. Joshua Tompkins, Fisheries Biologist, 270-226-4192.



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.


KDFWR Plan of Action and Partners

Invasive Carp in Kentucky

In Kentucky, the predominant species of invasive carp (silver, bighead, and grass) are established throughout the Mississippi, Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio river and many of their tributaries. This group of invasive fish are of concern due to their high reproductive potential and fast growth, which allows them to establish in new areas quickly and outgrow most predators. Additionally, the silver carp often leap out of the water when frightened leading to personal injury and property damage to recreational users on the water.


KDFWR has worked with state, federal, and private partners since 2010 to secure federal funding to support invasive carp work in the Ohio river basin. Through these partnerships and KDFWR’s involvement with the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA, funding has increased Kentucky’s invasive carp funding to over $3.1 million in fiscal year 2023.This increase in funding has allowed KDFWR to establish two carp crews, one stationed in Frankfort and the other stationed in Murray. These crews are tasked with monitoring carp populations, assessing impacts on native species and ecosystems, administering, and enhancing the carp harvest programs.


Commercial harvest is currently the only tool Kentucky has in reducing invasive carp population in our waters. In 2013, KDFWR held a commercial fishing tournament (Carp Madness 2013) in Barkley and Kentucky reservoirs. This tournament created national and international interest in the carp industry.


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

The ORFMT has released a report detailing strategies for controll​ing the spread of invasive carp and reducing populations where they are already established.  The report is available here.

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 fishers harvested 82,953 pounds of invasive carp during the country’s first freshwater commercial fishing tournament held on Barkley and Kentucky reservoirs March 12-13, 2013. Fifteen teams started the tournament but only 11 teams fished both days. Barry Mann’s winning team harvested 27,669 pounds of invasive carp and took home the $10,000 grand prize. 

The League of Kentucky Sportsmen along with many other donors helped fund the $20,000 payout to the top five teams. This tournament would have not been possible without the numerous volunteers and KDFWR staff who assisted with the event. Many sportfish anglers volunteered as observers on board the commercial fishing boats, and they were able to witness firsthand the minimal sportfish by catch during the tournament.

The Carp Madness tournament was an innovative way for KDFWR to develop national awareness of the invasive carp issue in the state of Kentucky. The media generated from this tournament helped to recruit new invasive carp fishers and processor to Kentucky, which has provided the foundation for Kentucky’s invasive carp harvest program for Barkley and Kentucky reservoirs. 

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

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.

Carp Madness 2 “Bowfishing Edition”

In 2018, KDFWR co-sponsored as second Carp Madness tournament with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and each state’s Fish and Wildlife foundations. Department staff saw the potential of bowfishing as an additional tool of dealing with invasive carp populations in Kentucky and held Carp Madness II to showcase the sport at a national level. 

The tournament featured two divisions, Rivers, and Lakes. The overnight tournament had a total of 81 boats participate and resulted in over 16,000 pounds of carp being weighed in. Tournament participants had tornadoes and big mayfly hatches that limited their success during the tournament. 

The interest generated from this event, has led to hundreds of thousands of pounds of invasive carp being harvested annually by bow fishers in Kentucky.

Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife form partnership to advance invasive carp removal efforts

The Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business at Murray State University and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have announced a new partnership to advance invasive carp removal efforts in Kentucky waterways.

Both entities see promise in a pairing of the internationally accredited business college with the state agency whose mission is conserving, protecting and enhancing Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources. The partnership is aimed at fostering development of entrepreneurship for the commercial and retail use of invasive carp that will result in the expansion of the processing industry in western Kentucky.

“Assisting in the reduction and control of this invasive species in such a way creates jobs and wealth for the region directly through new industry and indirectly through a vibrant recreational fishing and boating economy,” said Chris Wooldridge, director of the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development at Murray State University. “Taking this industry to the next level is necessary to have increased impact on the invasive carp population.”

“Murray State University and the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business seek, as part of our mission, to improve the quality of life in our region,” said Dr. David Eaton, dean of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business. “This partnership will improve the quality of life in our region while enhancing job growth and economic development in our service region and throughout the Commonwealth.” 

At present, a robust commercial fishing industry on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley and surrounding rivers is one of the few control strategies proven effective at reducing invasive carp impacts on sport fishing and boating economies in western Kentucky.

Commercial fishers have harvested more than nine million pounds of invasive carp from Kentucky waters over the past year. 

“We are optimistic that commercial harvest of invasive carp may be reducing populations in Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake,” said Dave Dreves, Fisheries Division director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Because of anticipated placement of deterrents at the dams forming both lakes and the unique spawning requirements of invasive carp, we believe there is a legitimate opportunity to fish down these populations in the lakes.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is mandated to regulate commercial fishing and it has worked to establish programs and advance regulatory changes through the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission to enhance the effectiveness of commercial fishing for invasive carp. Murray State continues to support the region’s economic growth and development by way of partnerships with public and private entities.

Together, they hope to leverage their resources and networks to: 
o Work with commercial fishers to innovate ways to industrialize the harvest of invasive carp to further reduce and control these populations
o Streamline administrative processes and expedite approvals for innovative and effective harvest
o Support the origination of individual entrepreneurs utilizing invasive carp in their business model
o Work with local, state and federal partners to develop infrastructure to facilitate invasive carp processing in the region
o Support commercialization and take-to-market efforts
o Develop a regional plan and approach through multi-state organizations to address the problem of the invasive species

“To achieve that level of impact will require multiple partners with unique resources and skill sets,” said Joshua Tompkins, a fisheries biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife who helps to coordinate invasive carp abatement efforts in Kentucky. “Having access to Murray State’s Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business can provide an opportunity to the industry for guidance in creating business plans and seeking financial incentives, and ultimately be a model for other areas that are interested in supporting similar invasive species management.” 

For more about the partnership, including how to get involved, contact Joshua Tompkins at about commercial fishing and Chris Wooldridge at about the invasive carp processing industry.​

Recreational Opportunities

​Bow Fishing

(301 KAR 1:140) Rough fish (except alligator gar and lake sturgeon) may be taken year-round by long bow, crossbow, compound bow, recurve bow or pneumatic air arrow launching device. Sport fish may not be taken with this gear. Arrows must have a barbed or retractable style point that has a line attached for retrieval. Catfish have a daily limit 5 (in aggregate) and paddlefish have a daily creel limit of 2. There is no limit on other rough fish. Bow fishers may fish within 200 yards of a dam, except they cannot fish 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. Bow fishing is also prohibited in Lake Carnico (Nicholas County), Carpenter Lake ( Daviess County), Clear Creek Lake (Bath County), Greenbo Lake (Greenup County) and Lake Reba (Madison County).

Persons using a bow and arrow for fishing must have the appropriate fishing license and may take rough fish from bank or boat. Bow anglers cannot sell paddlefish or their row taken by bow and arrow. Paddlefish, catfish, and shovelnose sturgeon 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. Persons with a sport fishing license can sell harvested invasive carp to fish processors if available, per 301 KAR 1:152, section 8. (

 Bowfishing for invasive carp with KYAfield


Snagging and Spearfishing

  • SPEAR FISHING (301 KAR 1:410) Underwater spearing of rough fish with hand-held or mechanically propelled spear is permitted year-round, but only in lakes having 1,000 surface acres or more. All participants in this sport must be completely submerged while spear fishing. Only rough fish may be taken and the appropriate fishing license is required. The daily creel limit is 15 fish of which only 5 may be catfish. 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 rod and attached line with one single or treble hook. 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 daily creel limit of 2 paddlefish and 2 shovelnose sturgeon for either gigging or snagging. Harvest of shovelnose sturgeon is prohibited in the Mississippi River. All gigged or snagged paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon must be taken into possession and cannot be culled or released. Anglers must cease gigging or snagging once they attain either a paddlefish or shovelnose sturgeon daily creel limit. It is illegal to sell paddlefish, or their roe taken by sportfish snagging methods. Also, when snagging, anglers may only harvest 1 trophy catfish per day and must cease snagging once a trophy catfish is taken. When gigging, an angler may take 1 trophy catfish of each species per day. No daily limits on any other rough fish. Regardless of condition, all sport fish as well as alligator gar and lake or pallid sturgeon 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. Disposal of gigged or snagged fish on the bank is considered littering and subject to a fine.

    Statewide regulations apply unless otherwise mentioned below: 

    • Up to five single or five treble hooks may be used for snagging. 

    • Gigging is prohibited in the Tennessee River downstream of Kentucky Dam year-round.
    • The area from Kentucky Dam to the new U.S. 62 bridge is open to snagging 24 hours per day from January 1 through May 31 and from sunset to sunrise from June 1 through December 31. • The area from the I-24 bridge downstream to the Ohio River is open to snagging year-round.
    • The area from the new U.S. 62 bridge to the I-24 bridge is closed to snagging year-round. 
    • Snagging is prohibited under the U.S. 62 bridge, under the P&L railroad bridge, and from any fishing pier or jetty. 
    • Daily snagging creel limit of 8 fish in aggregate excluding invasive carp, only two of which can be paddlefish and sturgeon. 
    • No size limit for sport fish snagged in the Tennessee River below Kentucky Dam. 
    • Anglers must cease snagging if the daily creel limit of any sportfish with a daily limit less than 8 fish is reached. 
    • Snagged shad, herring or invasive carp may be released, but all other species, including paddlefish and sportfish must be taken into possession and not be culled, regardless of size. 

    • Gigging and snagging only permitted downstream of U.S. 62 bridge. 
    • Harvest of sportfish prohibited. 
    • Snagged shad, herring or invasive carp can be released, but all other species, including paddlefish must be taken into possession and not be culled. 

    • 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.


Preparing and Cooking

Invasive carp are a great tasting fish that can be serve​d a variety of different ways. 
For those looking to purchase invasive carp at a market or restaurant, click here
For those wanting to fillet and cook invasive carp yourself, the following recipes and videos will be helpful. 
KY Fish and Wildlife Invasive Carp Crew’s favorite carp recipes are “Smoked Carp Dip” and “Silver Carp Salad”. Both recipes call for smoked flaked invasive carp. To make smoked flaked invasive carp, smoke filleted out (bone in or boneless) carp for 2-3 hours at 200-250 degrees skin down until meat flakes easily. You can season the meat with your favorite fish seasoning before putting on the smoker, we prefer Old Bay. Let cool, pick meat off bones, set aside or in the fridge until ready to make the dips. (Pictured are fillets off a silver carp and a bowl of smoked flaked invasive carp. Pictures by Matthew Dollenbacher, Fisheries Biologist, Murray)

Smoked Carp Dip:  
1 cup sour cream (or whipped cream cheese for more of a spread)  
1 cup mayonnaise 
½ cup relish  
1 cup flaked smoke carp  
Splash of lemon juice  
Season with old bay, pepper, and pinch of salt to taste​
Mix all ingredients in bowl, serve with crackers (We recommend Everything Seasoning Ritz Crackers).
Refrigerate leftovers.  
Silver Carp Salad:  
1 cup mayonnaise 
1/3 cup relish  
1 cup smoked carp  
Splash of lemon juice  
Season with old bay, pepper, and pinch of salt to taste  
Mix all ingredients in bowl, serve with crackers or on bread like tuna salad sandwiches.  
Refrigerate leftovers. 
MO Dept. of Conservation 

Flying Fish, Great Dish                     
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3 

Chef Phillipe Parola 

From KY Afield