How Much Do You Know About Asian Carps?!

This summer I had the opportunity to travel to the Toronto Zoo to visit the new Asian carp exhibit. During this adventure I created a new video! I’m excited to have partnered with the Invasive Species Centre to help spread awareness about Asian carps, share information about the 4 species of Asian carps, as well as provide information on where to report any suspected sightings. As you may know if you’ve been connected with me over the years, Lake Ontario is one of my favourite places on earth to fish. It’s important that we as anglers are knowledgeable about Asian carps so that we can help in preventing these destructive species from becoming established in our Great Lakes and beyond. If these species were to become established in our Great Lakes, they would wreak havoc on our fisheries causing serious ecological, social, and economic impacts.

Below is the video I created during my visit to the Asian carp exhibit.

What are Asian carps?

Asian carps refers to the following 4 species: black carp, bighead carp, silver carp and grass carp. These species are non-native to North America.

Although common carp are invasive to North America, they are naturalized and are not considered as part of the group of Asian carps. During several of my common carp fishing outings over the years, I’ve encountered passerby’s that assumed my catches were Asian carp. It is important as anglers that we are able to correctly identify Asian carps.

Ashley Rae with a common carp caught on the Bay of Quinte. Common carp are not considered as part of the group of Asian carps.

What impacts could Asian carps have?

Asian carps are a threat to our waterways as they consume 20-40% of their body weight in food daily, outcompeting native species. They grow very quickly and lack natural predators to control their populations. Grass carp in particular would significantly reduce water quality through their feeding habits.

Silver carp jumping in the Fox River. Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS.

Where did Asian carps come from?

Due to their diets, Asian carps have been used for aquatic plant control and biological control in aquaculture facilities since the 1960’s and 1970’s. Flooding events caused the four species to escape, and eventually make their way into the Mississippi River, which connects to Lake Michigan, and then to the rest of the Great Lakes. In addition, Grass Carp have been stocked in various parts of the U.S. Thankfully there are no established populations of Asian carps in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes.

How is the spread of Asian carps being prevented?

Government agencies and organizations in Canada and the United States are working extensively to prevent the spread of Asian carps through early detection surveillance, as well as environmental DNA sampling to detect traces of Asian carps. A system of electric barriers is in place near Romeoville, Illinois, on the Chicago Area Waterway System, which is the largest connection to the Great Lakes. These electric barriers send an electric current through the water, discouraging fish from passing through to Lake Michigan.

Aerial view of electric barriers project, Romeoville, Illinois, April 22, 2014.
U.S. Army Photo by Dave Wethington/Released.

What can anglers do to help?

As stewards of our waters, it is very important that we all know how to identify Asian carps.

I encourage you to click on the following links to learn more about the characteristics of each individual species: 

If you suspect you’ve caught one of the four species of Asian carp, be sure to take a picture. Asian carp sightings can be reported through the following methods:

  • By contacting the Invading Species Hotline at: 1-800-563-7711
  • Using the EDDMapS (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System) App for iPhone and Android:

Don’t forget!

It is illegal to import, possess, transport, or release Asian carps unless they are dead and eviscerated (gutted). 

It is illegal to dump your bait within 30m of any waterbody. Dumping bait can result in the introduction of non-native species into our waters. Many young or small fish species can look alike. The Baitfish Primer app is a great resource to help identify fish species. 

As anglers it’s important that we all chip in to do our part to help prevent the spread of Asian carps (and other invasive species!). Thank you for taking the time to learn more!

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