GF&P could ban taking of baitfish from Firesteel CreekBattle lines are being drawn in the fight against Asian carp in South Dakota, and one of the lines falls squarely on Firesteel Creek.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
Battle lines are being drawn in the fight against Asian carp in South Dakota, and one of the lines falls squarely on Firesteel Creek.
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks officials have proposed closing Firesteel Creek below Lake Mitchell to the taking of baitfish, both commercially and by anglers.
GF&P Chief of Aquatic Resources John Lott said the proposed change is to stop the accidental spread of the nuisance fish.
“We do have Asian carp in the James River and young Asian carp have been found in Firesteel Creek below the dam,” Lott said, “so the fear is anglers will net shad and minnows in that area and accidentally transport them to another body of water.”
A similar no-bait-catching rule was placed on the entirety of the James River earlier this year.
Lott understands that most anglers can tell the difference between a young Asian carp and a shad minnow side-by-side, but he said the problems come when anglers have many small fish in their net.
“I compare it to picking out the one rounded toothpick out of 100 squared-off ones that are scattered on the floor,” he said.
Under the proposed rule, which will be discussed in a special teleconference meeting Monday by GF&P commissioners, the East Fork and West Fork of the Vermillion River would also be closed to the taking of bait fish. Regular fishing would still be allowed.
If the rule is adopted, signage would be posted in the affected areas and anyone caught taking bait fish there would likely face a misdemeanor charge.
At Firesteel Creek, Lott said the Lake Mitchell spillway serves as an effective barrier to stop the flow of Asian carp into Lake Mitchell and further upstream. But accidental transportation is still a possibility into any of South Dakota’s waters.
There are four types of Asian carp: silver, bighead, grass and black. The silver, grass and likely the bighead varieties already reside in the James River.
The most famous type, the silver carp, is well known for jumping out of the water when startled by boat motors. For this reason, silver carp are sometimes referred to as “flying fish.”
“Silver carp are especially a concern because not only do they uproot plants and overpopulate fisheries, but they could hit boaters or water-skiers when they jump out of the water,” Lott said.
“Our concern right now is with the last two years of flooding, Asian carp may have spread across our water systems more than in previous years.”
Asian carp thrive when their eggs can be carried miles by the flow of a river. Lott said the heavy flows on the Missouri and James rivers last year coupled with the overland flooding that plagued much of eastern South Dakota were ripe conditions for Asian carp to spread.
The Asian carp differs from the common carp in its point of origin. Common carp are originally from Europe while Asian carp, as their name suggests, come from Asia. Asian carp were originally brought to the United States to clean catfish farm ponds, because of the amount of plant life and algae they eat. After years of flooding and accidental transportation, they began to spread across the country.
Common carp already inhabit many of South Dakota’s lakes and rivers, while Asian carp are isolated to only a few waterways but are beginning to spread.
Asian carp are believed to be in the James, Vermillion and Big Sioux rivers as well as the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam. Any anglers who observe Asian carp jumping or capture Asian carp outside these waters are encouraged to report it to the GF&P. Captured Asian carp must be dead before they’re transported.
Lott cited a study on Lake Madison that found 1,000 pounds of common carp per water acre. In comparison, 30 to 50 pounds of walleye were found per water acre.
Once Asian carp implant into an area, they are difficult to eradicate.
“That is really the million dollar question: How do you get rid of them once they are there?” he said.
Fisheries officials in Chicago are beginning to use electric currents in the water that act as barriers in hopes of stopping the Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through Chicago shipping channels.
Lott said a “biobullet” is being developed to fight the fish, which would act as a toxin on the carp but would not harm other fish or plants.
Commercial fishing of Asian carp is also a possibility, because the fish are in high demand in China, but Lott said U.S. processing facilities are not set up to prepare the carp after they are caught.
“Right now we need to do everything we can to stop the spread of these fish, and then we can start to work on ways to get rid of them,” Lott said.