Watch your heads, Minnesota boaters: Asian carp have arrived

Categories: Outdoors
Asian carp DNR.jpg
Commercial fishermen hold Asian carp caught March 1 in Mississippi River near Winona. From left to right, the fish are grass carp, silver carp, and bighead carp.
Batten down the hatches -- Asian carp have arrived in Minnesota. A silver carp and a bighead carp were caught in the Mississippi River March 1 near Winona, the furthest point upstream the fish have been seen thus far.

Recent reports make the invasive fish sound like villainous creatures from a sci-fi flick -- "the silver carp is known to jump out of the water and strike boaters in the head," MPR notes; according to the EPA, reported injuries from flying silver carp include "cuts from fins, black eyes, broken bones, back injuries, and concussions."

Not only can Asian carp lay the smack down on humans, but they mess up ecosystems as well. Bighead carp can weigh up to 100 pounds, silver carp up to 60, and the voracious eaters can easily out-compete native fish for scarce food supplies.

In response to the Asian carp threat, Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing legislators to approve funding for construction of a new fish barrier at the Coon Rapids Dam. Dayton, writing last week in an Outdoor News editorial, said, "we continue to explore emergency closure of the St. Anthony Falls lock, should that be our last line of defense in a critical situation."

On the heels of last week's discovery of silver carp and bighead carp near Winona, Steve Hirsch, the DNR's Eco-Waters Division director, characterized the need for the state to take containment action as "urgent."
bighead carp.jpg
A bighead carp. This ungodly ugly fish might be able to kick your ass.

Referencing the experience of other states that have dealt with the invasive carp, Hirsch said: "As these fish moved up they went through a period like what we're going through now where they would occasional see big fish and it would start to become more and more common and it seems like they reach a threshold and then they start reproducing and they become abundant."

In other words, in addition to poles and life jackets, if state officials don't find a way to contain Asian carp sooner than later, anglers might also have to pack helmets when they hit Minnesota lakes connected with the Mississippi River.

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My Voice Nation Help

First of all, these are not the first Asian carp found this far north. A bighead was caught as long ago as 1996 in the St. Croix River. Know this, there have been commercial fishermen on the Lower St. Croix and Lake Pepin for decades. The work on Coon Rapids Dam was already funded by last year's legislative session, to the tune of $16 million, the money this year is to try and make the rebuilding more effective as a barrier. What we don't know about the Asians caught in Winona area is, were they from that area. There are tests that can determine where fish were from and I for one, question the incidence of three different species caught at once by Il. River commercial fishermen hired by MNDNR to find them. As far as population growth in other states, most of that growth took place in rivers absent the many locks and dams on the Upper Miss.

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