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Following the Asian carp migration

July 26, 2010 - Steve Murch

Over the weekend, I watched a show on National Geographic Channel about the invasion of Asian carp. Host Zeb Hogan spent most of the time on the Illinois River, though he was on the St. Clair River and Missouri River. Among his experiences were a Redneck Fishing Tournament, fishing for sturgeon in the St. Clair River and fishing for paddlefish in the Missouri River.


The show was new, or at least recently updated, because it did reference the discovery of Asian carp just six miles from Lake Michigan earlier this summer. Hogan looked at the efforts to monitor the fish, as well as those fish that are threatened species – the sturgeon and paddlefish. The show also made mention, but didn't fully address, other invasive species like zebra mussels and goby.


One of Hogan's expeditions was the Redneck Fishing Tournament on the Illinois River. Dozens of fishermen roar up and down the river with nets, all in an attempt to catch the Asian carp as they jump out of the water. The tournament caught over 1,500 fish. He also spent the day with a commercial fisherman who caught over 10,000 pounds of Asian carp. Incredible numbers for one species in a stretch of river.


Hogan spent two expeditions fishing for sturgeon and paddlefish to find out what the effects Asian carp might have on them. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect was when Hogan was told by someone with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that when he went to China, the Chinese he spoke with couldn't believe the carp jumped out of the water. It's a “feat” that is a phenomenon exclusive to North America. In other words we have a super-hybrid Asian carp.


For those of us who have followed the Asian carp migration toward the Great Lakes, the program reaffirms how much the species can destroy an ecosystem. To those who are unaware, or are in a state of denial, this should be mandatory viewing. The threat is real. What isn't know is how long it would take for Asian carp to destroy or dramatically alter the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.


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