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Crews pull 30 invasive carp from Mississippi River Pool 6 near Winona

A commercial fishing company captured 30 of the invasives, the largest number caught at one time this far upstream.

WINONA, Minn. — Editor's note: The video above first aired on June 30, 2021. 

If there was any doubt invasive carp are making their way into Minnesota's waterways in larger and larger numbers, a development on the Mississippi River near Winona Monday makes it painfully clear it IS happening. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says a commercial fishing company contracted by the agency captured 30 of the dreaded fish (mostly silver carp) from Pool 6. While invasive carp have been pulled from the Mississippi as far upstream as the Twin Cities metro, this marks the largest number at one time this far up the river. 

Invasive carp have been progressing upstream since escaping into the Mississippi in Arkansas in the 1970s. These fish grow to a large size and have voracious appetites, competing with native species and posing a significant threat to Minnesota's rivers and lakes.

With a steady food supply silver carp can grow up 50 inches long and weigh 90 pounds. Even worse, they can leap out of the water 10 feet into the air, posing a danger to people in watercraft.

Credit: MN DNR
With a steady food supply silver carp can grow up 50 inches long and weigh 90 pounds. Even worse, they can leap out of the water 10 feet into the air.

“While there is currently no ‘silver bullet’ to prevent or eliminate invasive carp, we will continue to use a combination of proven methods and the best available information to minimize risk by targeting and removing as many fish as possible,” said DNR Invasive Fish Coordinator Grace Loppnow. “As demonstrated by this catch, the expertise of our contracted commercial fishers is one of many important tools.”

Environmentalists say this catch should indeed catch the attention of lawmakers. 

"It's time there is no doubt that now is this is this year, this is the legislative session to take action," said Jeff Forester, the exec. Director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates.

He and other environmental advocacy groups are in support of proposed legislation that would dedicate about $17 million to slow down the spread of carp.

"No, I don't believe it's too late," said Peter Sorensen, during a State Senate committee Thursday. "But I do think there's considerable urgency and we should move quickly on this."

Sorensen is a University of Minnesota professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. 

The committee heard from him and other advocates on a measure that would concentrate efforts on deterring the fish at Lock and Dam 5, just upstream from this week's catch. 

Environmental advocates say it's the last place Minnesota can stop the carp from advancing.

"There is no plan B," said Colleen O'Connor Toberman, the Land Use & Planning Program Director of the Friends of the Mississippi River. "And should we abdicate this opportunity we will spend far more to remove fish later with less success and higher collateral damage."

"This is the event that justifies the warnings that we've been sharing around the state for over a decade," said Forester. 

DNR fisheries crews are currently working to respond to the capture, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other partners. Additional commercial fishing is being conducted this week in Pool 6, and a previously scheduled netting and capture operation using the Modified Unified Method (MUM) will take place in Mississippi River Pools 5A, 6 and 8 begining April 24. 

MUM is a process that uses boats or sound to herd carp into nets for removal. Additional DNR efforts to control the invasive carp population include: 

  • Leading a program to monitor for all life stages of invasive carp in the Minnesota pools of the Mississippi River, the St. Croix River, the Minnesota River and the Missouri River watershed. It includes fisheries sampling, tagging and tracking, and partnering with USFWS and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on eDNA surveys. The work helps biologists better understand the invasive carp population in Minnesota, target areas for removal efforts and determine whether reproduction is occurring.
  • The DNR leads MUM operations each spring and fall, largely focused around Pool 8. The agency continually adapts MUM to improve its ability to catch invasive carp.
  • Partnering with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota to test and evaluate carp deterrents in Mississippi River locks and dams.
  • Working with stakeholders to update the Minnesota Invasive Carp Action Plan, which includes evaluation of potential carp barriers, deterrents and other management tools in the Mississippi River. 

Anyone who captures an invasive carp is required to report it to the DNR immediately by calling 651-587-2781 or emailing invasivecarp.dnr@state.mn.us. Anglers are asked to take a photo and transport the carp to the nearest DNR fisheries office, or make arrangements to have a field agent pick it up. 

To learn more about invasive carp, check out the Minnesota DNR website.



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