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Asian Carp FAQ

What are Asian carp?
There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a threat to the Great Lakes, the bighead, silver and black carp. Silver and bighead carp are filter-feeding fish and consume plant and animal plankton at an alarming rate. Bighead carp can grow to very large sizes of over five feet in length and can weigh 100 pounds or more. Black carp differ in that they consume primarily mollusks, and threaten native mussel and sturgeon populations. They can grow to seven feet in length and 150 pounds.
Where did Asian carp come from?
Asian carp were originally imported to the southern United States in the 1970s to help aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities keep retention ponds clean. Flooding throughout the 1990's allowed these fish to escape into the Mississippi and migrate into the Missouri and Illinois rivers.
Why are they a problem?
Asian carp are a problem because of their feeding and spawning habits. Bighead carp are capable of consuming 20% of their own body weight in food each day. Silver carp are smaller, but pose a greater danger to recreational users because of their tendency to jump out of the water when disturbed by boat motors. They can severely impact fishing and recreation. They can spawn multiple times during each season and quickly out-compete native species by disrupting the food chain everywhere they go.
What happens if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes?
Asian carp could have a devastating effect on the Great Lakes ecosystem and a significant economic impact on the $7 billion fishery. Once in Lake Michigan, this invasive species could access many new tributaries connected to the Great Lakes. These fish aggressively compete with native commercial and sport fish for food. They are well suited to the water temperature, food supply, and lack of predators of the Great Lakes and could quickly become the dominant species. Once in the lake, it would be very difficult to control them.
Where are the Asian carp now?
During 2002 monitoring efforts, Asian carp were detected in the upper Illinois River, just 60 miles from Lake Michigan. In 2009, by using a new method called eDNA testing, silver carp were detected considerably closer, within the Lockport Pool (Des Plaines River, and I & M Canal).
What is eDNA testing/How does it work?
Environmental DNA testing (eDNA) was developed at the University of Notre Dame to improve monitoring of invasive species. All fish, including Asian carp, release DNA into the environment. The presence of individual species can be detected by filtering water samples, and then extracting and amplifying short fragments of the shed DNA. The objective is to use eDNA testing as an early detection tool to identify Asian carp locations. For more information on eDNA testing, read: Risk Reduction Study Fact Sheet Environmental DNA (eDNA) [PDF exit DNR].
How would the fish enter Lake Michigan?
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) is a manmade waterway that provides a direct connection between the Mississippi River system and Lake Michigan. eDNA sampling suggests that the carp are already about a mile from the electric barrier located within the CSSC that is designed to deter them from advancing through the canal to Lake Michigan.
Are there other navigation points for fish to swim around the electric barrier?
Other points of possible entry to the CSSC above the electric barrier are the low lying areas of land positioned between the Des Plaines River, the Illinois and Michigan (I & M) Canal and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. During heavy rainfall events, these areas are prone to flooding. A significant rain could flood the banks, joining the Des Plaines with the CSSC or the I & M canal with the CSSC, and allowing these fish to bypass the barrier and advance toward Lake Michigan. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others are currently investigating potential solutions to these bypass issues.
How can the public help prevent the spread of Asian carp?
  • Don't move live fish from one location to another. Illinois state law prohibits the transport of live Asian carp.
  • Never use wild-caught baitfish in waters other than where they came from.
  • Know the difference between juvenile Asian carp and Juvenile Gizzard Shad which look nearly identical.
  • Drain lake or river water from live wells and bilges before leaving any body of water.
What steps are being taken to prevent them from entering the Great Lakes?
  • A group of biologist and response professionals including representatives of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are finalizing a response plan to address the potential immediate threat as well as more permanent long term solutions.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has installed two electric barriers in the CSSC to help repel the carp. A third barrier is scheduled to be complete in 2010.
  • Asian Carp eDNA monitoring has been conducted by the University of Notre Dame and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Des Plaines River, CSSC, I & M Channel and the Chicago River.
  • Fisheries biologists from state and federal agencies have increased their efforts to locate the fish using traditional fishing gear and electro-fishing methods.
  • A fish toxicant called Rotenone will be applied to the CSSC while the Electric Barrier is down for routine maintenance in November.
  • The Rapid Response Team is analyzing where the low water spots on the Des Plaines and the I & M canal are located and where the bypasses to the electric barrier occur.
Why doesn't the Rapid Response Group permanently close waterway access to Lake Michigan?
Permanent closure of a waterway is outside the authorities of the Rapid Response Working Group, and would require U.S. Legislative action or an Executive Order.

  Click on the picture to your left to view the WI DNR fishing report for 2011.


Click on the picture to your right to see the dates of the season for each individual fish.

Wisconsin Fishing Report 2011                                                                                                    2011 Season by Fish
Invasive Red Crayfish - Taking on the Invader


To rid Wisconsin of a new destructive invasive crayfish, the DNR is launching a multi-pronged attack, including trapping the crayfish and treating them with chlorine bleach in the Germantown pond where they were first found.
Click on both Photos for more information.

ONLY YOU - Can prevent the spread of invasive aquatics

Chief Warden Randy Stark describes basic precautions boaters and anglers must take in the State of Wisconsin to follow the law and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.