You remember gas carp, right? Creatures with fins swimming up the Mississippi River towards Minnesota? Some are called grass carp, others are called bighead or black carp,
Is the really terrible carp jumping? They are silver congrats.
Silver is that which has already filled rivers throughout the center of the country. Illinois. Ohio. Wabash.
These and other American waterways are full of silverfish – fish that can jump out of the water by the hundreds when they hear the whine of a boat engine.
Quiet cruises on those rivers? They’re mostly gone, replaced by survival periods. Also gone are for the most part recreational options like water skiing, or even running from one fishing spot to another without anglers worrying about getting hit in the head by a silver carp.
Silver carp also play havoc with local ecosystems, displacing both fishing and non-fishing fish.
No one can blame you if you’ve forgotten about these unsavory invaders, because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also seems to have relegated their threat to the back burner — and the stove behind it, too.
If in doubt, check it out on the agency’s website:
“The Minnesota DNR has been slowing the spread of invasive carp since the early 2000s. A renewed effort began in 2011 and a collaboration between state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and university researchers developed the Minnesota Invasive Carp Action Plan.”
Now, 12 years after that plan was formulated, instead of asking for money in this session of the legislature to install a deterrent for the Mississippi River that could reduce the chances of silver carp forming breeding populations that threaten more of the state’s waters, DNR wants… wait for it… Form a committee to discuss matters.
The “deliberative decision-making process” will take four to six months.
It’s all well and good, says Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR). Although the group will be part of the talks, it is moving forward this legislative session to obtain funding to install a bubble and sound deterrent at Lock and Dam 5 on the Mississippi River, located in Winona County near the city of Minnesota — a placement recommended by the University of Minnesota. Professor and researcher Peter Sorensen.
“Ideally, this funding could have been achieved a couple of years ago,” said Whitney Clark, executive director of FMR. Even with divided government and tighter budgets in recent years, I think we could have gotten the money from the legislature for a deterrent if it had been ready.
“Now, with the state in a better financial position, we believe this is the right moment to get deterrent funding and work to protect Minnesota waters from invasive carp.”
At the U, Sorensen’s research has included controlling sea lampreys in the Great Lakes and, more recently, controlling both common carp and their invasive counterparts, all part of his broader academic interest in fish physiology and behavior.
Sorensen has been at the forefront of carp control in Minnesota and nationally for decades, and in his lab at U has researched ways to prevent invasive silver and carp from reaching the upper Mississippi, as well as the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers. .
Much of his business was funded with Minnesota lottery money as recommended by the Legislative Citizens Committee on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).
In his lab, Sorensen and his students tested a commercially available bubble and sonic deterrent in a simulated river 30 feet long by 10 feet wide.
Thousands of fish were released over five years into the “river” to see if they could break through the barrier.
Sorensen said, “We found that the deterrent was 95 to 98% effective, which is about as much as you can hope for. That would be enough to stop population breeding from going through the dam and dam, and that’s the point.”
Upstream on the Mississippi, where Sorensen proposes to install the deterrent, are the confluences with the Minnesota River, which runs west to the South Dakota border, and the St. Croix River, which flows unhindered to the dam at Taylors Falls.
Also at risk are Lake Pepin, Wisconsin’s Chippewa River, and various Mississippi River pools, including Pool 2, which offers some metro, the best year-round walleye, sauger, and bass (smallmouth and largemouth) for fishing.
Sorensen believes the best deterrent available is a bioacoustic fish fence (BAFF) developed by a British company, Fish Guidance Systems.
“We believe the BAFF system, which is already installed below a lock and dam in Kentucky, and is working effectively, is our best option,” he said.
FMR’s Clarke agrees.
“We think the time is now,” he said. “We wish the DNR had included money for the wall in its budget submissions to the legislature this year, but they haven’t. So we’ve introduced a bill that, if passed, would allocate $17 million for the wall, as well as remove carp near the deterrent site, and develop A corridor system for local fish.The funds can come from a budget surplus or from interconnection.
It could take two to three years to install the deterrent, Sorensen said, adding that leasing the system initially might be best.
“If we act now, I think we can protect our waters at least for the life of our descendants,” Sorensen said. “If we don’t act and the clans, especially the silver carp, take root, we won’t know any way to get rid of them.”