MDC completes invasive carp removal project for Lower Grand River – Chillicothe News Constitution-Tribune

A successful invasive carp removal project on the lower Grand River by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) gives hope for future similar projects. The MDC and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) used nets and electrofishing from September 12-16 to remove nearly 25,000 pounds of non-native carp from the lower eight miles of the river. The project improved river habitat for native fish and provided information on how commercial operations could be used in the future to reduce invasive carp. A commercial fishing company will market the fish caught during this operation.

“We were able to run very smoothly and efficiently,” said Kasey Whitman, MDC Missouri River Unit Supervisor and Biometrics. “Time and the river cooperated.”

Invasive carp breed prolifically and grow rapidly, taking up space in the water and reducing the food base of native fish, including game fish. Fish removal projects cannot remove them from rivers. But if commercial fishing operations can cost-effectively remove carp, that’s one way to reduce the numbers of invasive fish and improve conditions for native fish. Commercial fishing is permitted in the Missouri River, Mississippi River, and St. Francis River. However, under special permits, it may be permitted in non-commercial waters. The commercial fishing operator plans to process caught Grand River carp for sale as catfish, crayfish and lobster bait.

During the operation, the MDC had 76 employees and the USFWS had 12 employees operating various types of equipment on boats and ashore. Nets blocked the lower eight miles of the Grand River before its confluence with the Missouri River. A combination of gillnets and various types of electrofishing gear were used to catch carp. Since this was also a research project, each invasive carp was counted with a final count of 6,716 fish. More than 95 percent were silver carp. A few grass carp and a few bighead carp were also caught. Invasive carp subsamples were weighed and measured for ongoing research. MDC has completed fish population studies for the river and these will be underway to measure the long-term effects of removing invasive fish.

The average size of silver carp caught was three to four pounds. They are two to three year old fish that are about to become sexually mature. Thus, removing them can help limit future spawning of invasive species.

One surprise, Whiteman said, is that more paddlefish were caught than expected. All native fish caught were weighed, measured and released safely outside the project area. Most of the native fish caught were buffaloes, carp suckers and shads. Sampling equipment was most effective in the upper water columns used by invasive carp and did not catch live catfish deeper.

The information gathered will be used to guide future operations. If commercial removal of invasive carp becomes possible in the future, operators under current regulations would only be allowed to use pots, seines, gillnets and trammel nets, Whiteman said. In the coming months, the USFWS will use sophisticated sonar to measure how quickly invasive carp are returning to the lower Grand River.

MDC appreciates the Grand River angling community for their patience and support for the project and the temporary access and closure of the river, Whiteman said. The project was another step toward managing invasive carp in the Missouri and Mississippi systems.

“It’s about acquiring knowledge and learning so that we can strategize for the future,” he said.

To learn more about invasive carp, visit https://short.mdc.

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