The potential for Asian carp in the Great Lakes could cause problems

Andy Whitcomb

Invasive species are a constant threat to natural ecosystems. Anglers and boaters are encouraged to take precautions to reduce the spread of certain plants and animals. One of the greatest battles is fighting the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

The Asian “carp” are the thick head carp, silver carp and black carp and are not related to the carp. The eyes and mouth of the thick-headed carp and its more acrobatic relative, the silver carp, seem strangely out of place. You may have seen videos of Asian carp jumping with them when caught by boat engines.

These fish originally escaped aquaculture farms in the south. In 2008, they were reported within 15 miles of the electrical barrier on a Chicago canal. That year a silver carp was seen across an electrical barrier. Scientists and fisheries managers are also using sonic bubble barriers, chemical deterrents, nets and electrofishing to monitor and stop the migration of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

Why the great worries of the Asian carp in the Great Lakes?

When Asian carp reach the Great Lakes, the balance of the system can be upset. These fish are very tolerant of temperature extremes and low levels of dissolved oxygen, allowing them to survive conditions other fish cannot. They grow quickly and can weigh over 60 pounds. To achieve this growth, these “planktivores” must consume large amounts of plankton, which normally feeds all other larval fish species, as well as such docile native fish as big mouth buffalo, paddle fish, and gizzard fish.

As a result, Asian carp fishing is difficult and there are not many carp fishing tips available. Tiny plankton doesn’t exactly fit on a hook. In an attempt to figure out how to catch Asian carp, one method for Asian carp fishing is described in the informative article Carp Lemonade by Duane Chapman, Conservation Commission of Missouri. Under a large bobber, surround a large ball of dough with a “nest” of tiny hooks that are tied over it so that they dangle around the ball of dough. One report claimed to be successful with cheese. And some fly fishermen have hooked them with heavy minnow patterns. Bow fishing is another option.

If anglers find Asian carp in the Great Lakes, all we have to do is “lemonade” the situation and try to get the most out of Asian carp fishing as they have become the dominant species in some spots along the Mississippi. Please do your part to prevent the spread of these and other invasive species. The Great Lakes are an amazing fishery and need our protection. Funds from your fishing license and your boat registration will help.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fishery research technician at OSU, in the US state of Iowa and in the US state of Michigan.