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Asian carp still a problem on Illinois River

GRANVILLE – It may be six months before the Cabela’s Master Walleye Circuit returns to Spring Valley, but many fishermen have eyes on the waters now, worrying about another fish.

Asian carp have been breeding and feeding their way up the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers for several years, and although they haven’t reached Lake Michigan, their impact is being felt downriver.

“Our experiences with them here go back about seven or eight years,” said Nick Troglio, a Spring Valley Boat Club Board member. “Bill Senica was riding a wave runner and got knocked off the runner by an Asian carp.”

“I’ve had one actually fly over the bow of my boat, over the top of my windshield, and land between the two of us and flopped down into the cabin,” Troglio said. “They’re everywhere. It’s tough because you can’t catch ‘em, except when they jump into your boat.”

Unlike many other fish, Asian carp don’t eat other fish. They subsist on phytoplankton, a small organism which is essential for many native young fish. The carp’s consumption is depleting the waters, forcing other fish out of their natural waters. Asian carp are known to grown up to 100 pounds and 4 feet long. Since they’re easily excited, many carp have jumped out of the water – sometimes as high as 10 feet – severely injuring people on boats or personal watercraft.

Since 2010, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has removed more than 115,000 Asian carp from the Illinois River between the Starved Rock lock and dam and the Lockport lock and dam near Joliet. Unfortunately, no population numbers are known further upstream to begin to figure what percentage of the population has been removed.

The term Asian carp actually refers to several different species of carp, although the two major populations in U.S. riverways are the silver and bighead carp. These were listed as an invasive species in the Lacey Act of 2012, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked with finding ways to keep them from gaining access to the Great Lakes. Experts warn that encroachment into Lake Michigan would devastate Chicago’s $7 billion-a-year fishing industry.

While Americans associate the Asian carp with the common carp as far as edibility, Asian carp is said to taste like cod and is often marketed as Silverfin or Kentucky carp in order to attract consumers. In China, most of the species we know as Asian carp are a delicacy.

Asian carp were introduced to the United States by southern fish farmers as a method of cleaning their commercial pools during the 1970s. While many claim the flooding of the 1990s was responsible for the fish escaping into free waters, the IDNR has reports of Asian carp in the Mississippi as far back as 1979.

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