NANFA-- Flying Carp- More than just a Fish Story

Brian Haas (
Fri, 31 May 2002 09:48:01 -0500

An old article, but nonethless interesting

see <> for
the complete article, which also discusses other introduced carp species

WI DNR Invasive Species News
Issued by DNR's La Crosse office, Jan. 25, 2001

Flying Carp- More than just a Fish Story

By Ruth Nissen, Wisconsin DNR

Imagine if you can, 10-20 lb. fish jumping into
your boat as you idle
a boat in the side channels of the Mississippi
River. A classic fish
story, but one that has become true in the Missouri
and Mississippi
Rivers. In reality it is a situation that can be
downright hazardous
especially when a 20-lb fish comes flying at your
head. Biologists
from the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program have
being hit multiple times by large jumping fish on
the Mississippi River
north of St. Louis while electrofishing to sample
fish populations.
Unfortunately the fish in this case are bighead
carp, not exactly the
fish of dreams, because they have little or no
value as a game fish.

In addition to their jumping ability these fish are
also notable for their
appearance and their size. The location of their
eyes, which are
located far forward and low on the head, gives the
fish a rather
bizarre appearance (in Latin their name means
underneath eye).
These fish grow incredibly fast and reach about 25
inches by the
second year, eventually reaching over 28 inches
long and 40 to 50
lbs. In some backwaters of the Mississippi River
and in some
locations in Indiana, (which are now filled with
bighead, silver and
some common carp rather than native fish species),
fisherman have had to abandon their traditional
fishing style because
the carp are so large and abundant the fisherman
canít even lift their

Bighead carp were brought to the U.S. in 1973 from
China to help
improve the water quality and control plankton
(microscopic animals and plants) in catfish farms,
(initially in
Arkansas). By 1978, the importation and possession
of bighead carp
was prohibited, but the damage had already been
done. Bighead
carp had already escaped into nearby rivers. Farm
fish ponds are not
closely controlled or monitored and are often
located in bottomlands
that are subject to flooding, thereby offering an
easy escape route for
these exotic carp.

Bighead carp filter feed on zooplankton
(microscopic animals) which
puts them in direct competition for food with
paddlefish, bigmouth
buffalo, and gizzard shad as well as all young
native fish. The carp
have the edge on our native species because of
their large suction
volume, and voracious appetites, which enables them
to quickly
decimate concentrations of zooplankton. To make
matters worse,
the carp are also prolific breeders and they get so
large so fast that
not much else is big enough to eat them.

Eventually the bighead carp found its way into the
Mississippi and
Missouri River systems and is currently reported in
22 states
including Iowa, Illinois, and South Dakota. Their
furthest northern
point so far on the Mississippi is the dam at
Keokuk, Iowa.
However, officials report bighead carp "stacking up
like cordwood"
below dams on the Missouri, Des Moines and the
upper Mississippi
Rivers trying to penetrate upstream river reaches.
The species
ultimate potential range in North America is unknown.
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