Asian Carp: Not Grandma’s Type of Fish

Early memories of fishing with our grandma included regular warnings to never eat the carp!

As a child, the actively agile carp was a tough fish to get into the boat once it was hooked.  Successful bouts at pulling them in made me the star of many fishing trips that often ended the same way.  Grandma would praise my efforts, unhook the deep-bellied, high-backed catch, call it a bottom feeder and fling it clear across the pond, lake or slow flowing water we were fishing in.  Not a one ever invaded our home-bound cooler full of perch, crappie and blue gill.

Today, the Great Lakes Region is facing a different type of carp.  Asian carp are distinguished as an invasive specie that enjoys warm, shallow waters rich in fish and nutrients – like Lake Erie. Imported into the southern states during the 1960s and 1970s, Asian carp were great for research and algae control but they subsequently escaped during floods and headed up the Mississippi River. They entered the waterways via man-made canals and ocean freighters.

The Asian carp is large and dubbed an eating machine with a nearly bottomless appetite for food crucial to native fish life.  With no known predator in the U.S. to keep this fish in check,  different types of Asian carp can top 50 pounds.  They are known to leap from the water when agitated by boat motors, decimate other aquatic life, disrupt the region’s $16 billion recreational boating industry and drastically increase harmful changes in our Great Lakes.

Appointed last year by President Obama, federal Carp Czar John Goss is charged with finding a solution in the battle against the big fish.  Czar Goss and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have unveiled a four-year plan to look at long-term solutions.

Challenges with the plan include the length of time it takes and that it goes beyond its congressional mandate to study ways to “prevent“ invasive species movement and includes a study to “reduce risk” which automatically hinders expedited resolve.

Right now the Chicago portion of the study will not be completed until mid-2015. And much needed construction funding will not be authorized until after the federal study is completed.

A most immediate concern is keeping Long Lake near Akron, marshes in Indiana and the Maumee River near Toledo (known as tributaries) protected because they feed into Lake Erie.  As the Asian carp get closer to the Great Lakes, other fish like perch and walleye are crowded out toppling a $7 billion fishing industry and further adding to the regions job loss.

The National Wildlife Federation is working to stop the siege of lakes by invasive species from all sources. Keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes would be a huge victory for these freshwater seas and all who treasure and benefit from them.  Join us at

This piece was also published in the Cleveland Call & Post and The Michigan Chronicle.