Dreaded Asian carp headed toward Indy

If you enjoy riding boats on the White River, you had better get in as much of it as you can, while you can. The Asian carp, perhaps the worst invasive species to ever hit Indiana and the bane of boaters, anglers and ecologists alike, is on its way up the White River.

John Goss, executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, says the carp have been confirmed in the White River near Bloomfield in southwestern Indiana, and it’s just a matter of time before they bring their acrobatics and locust-like appetites to Indianapolis and streams and tributaries beyond.

“We could expect to see them any time,” says Goss, who directed the Indiana Department of Natural Resources under former governors Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan. “Indiana must develop a strategy to reduce the Asian carp in the near future, or they will crowd out other species.”

The carp, which escaped from Southern catfish farms in the early ’90s, could become a greater ecological problem in Indiana than the Emerald ash borer that’s killing trees across the state, he says.

Authorities are trying to stop the carp from moving from the Illinois River into Lake Michigan, where it likely would all but wipe out game fish and the fisheries industry.

The fish indeed is something to reckon with. It multiplies quickly, has a voracious appetite and gets huge—up to 4 feet long and 100 pounds.

Their size is what makes boating interesting. Motors seem to startle them, so when a boat passes, they leap like dolphins out of the water and sometimes smack boats and boaters. Here’s a video of the fish jumping from the Wabash River, where they’re also moving in.

People who care more about Eagle Creek, Geist or Morse than the White River should be concerned, too. The reservoirs are protected from streams by spillways, but all it takes is for one person to catch a couple of the carp and think they’re doing nature a favor by releasing them where they don’t exist.

“Do not take these fish live and do not put them in another body water,” Goss warns.

The picture is not bleak, Goss says. Scientists might figure out how to disrupt their reproductive cycles like they did with sea lampreys, the eel-like fish that invaded the Great Lakes and proceeded to latch onto trout, walleye and other fish with their concentric circles of teeth.

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