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We’re gonna harp about carp until they’re gone

This is whone bad guys — silver carp which is variety Asian Carp — looks like. | ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

This is what one of the bad guys — a silver carp, which is a variety of Asian Carp — looks like. | ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

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Updated: August 22, 2012 6:07AM

Some area homeowner associations hold carp-catching tournaments to rid the lakes of carp and promote more game fish like bass, bluegill, crappie, northern pike, muskie.

Now, comes word we need to worry about four types of Asian Carp — the bighead and silver carp are the ones that famously jump out of the water when a boat passes.

Every time I see those video clips it’s just disheartening. We may not have to worry much about them in our inland lakes, but they are a big threat to Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes.

We’re going to hear about these carp for some time because Chicago and Illinois don’t want to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that was dug to flush sewage downstream to the Mississippi 100 years ago.

It’s all about the shipping industry and the jobs and money involved. The solution has been an electric barrier.

But about a year ago, University of Notre Dame researchers came up with a test that can detect environmental DNA, and their test found DNA from Asian carp above the barrier.

The DNA can be floating in the water or hitch a ride on boats going to Lake Michigan and it is not proof there are actual fish that go with the DNA.

But a Level 1 response was initiated.

That meant an all-out hunt for the carp in the Lake Calumet area, where one Asian carp was captured in 2010.

Six miles of nets were deployed, including a half-mile long seine, and nets swept large portions of the lake three times and other crews were busy using electro-fishing boats to check the 10 miles of shoreline.

They even deployed new net technologies developed specifically for Asian carp. They had gill nets and hoop nets.

And in the end of the three-day search and 900-man hours, they found 6,300 fish and more than 30 different species, but no Asian carp.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has also contracted commercial fishermen down on the Illinois River where many of those videos were shot and they have removed 1 million pounds of fish.

Thankfully, this is federally funded and not coming out of the IDNR’s incredible shrinking budget.

So what’s new? Now, researches have found environmental DNA in Lake Erie. The Maumee River flows into the shallowest of the Great Lakes that also has an abundant fishery near Toledo, Ohio.

In 2010, a chain-link fence was placed in a wetland in Indiana to prevent carp from migrating from the Wabash River, which already has them, into the Maumee River.

Researchers with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Wisconsin are experimenting with tiny pills that only Asian carp would scoop up because they are filter feeders, cleaning the water column of plankton and other organisms small game fish need to grow.

The idea is delivering birth control or poison through the pills, which would pass through the gills of gamefish. Scary in a way, but note that the same agency came up with putting sterile female sea lampreys into Lake Michigan to reduce that population.

Recently, Canada has committed $17.5 million to keep the carp at bay. The U.S. will spend $50 million in 2012 toward the same goal of keeping the fish out of the Great Lakes.

The real disheartening news is that Canadian officials have stopped five shipments of live Asian carp coming from the United States and going into Canada.

Toronto’s large Asian population is the draw and southern state fish farms are trying to fill the bill.

So, large truck loads of these fish are travelling across state lines, which is against the law in the U.S. One man in Canada was fined $50,000 for possessing the fish.

Maybe we just need to ban live ones outright. They are used in fish-farm operations to keep the ponds clean and during some floods they escaped and started taking over parts of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. I don’t think we can eat our way out of this or grind enough of them into fertilizer.

Calendar alert

Bassmasters of Northern Illinois will hold their annual free Fishing Should Be Fun Derby Aug. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon at Round Lake Beach Park on Lake Shore Drive.

Don’t have your own equipment? There will be some to borrow.

There will also be boating safety seminar, kids casting event and fishing knots and rigging.

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