100,000 Pounds of Asian Carp - Illinois DNR Works to Prevent Asian Carp From Approaching the Chicago Area Waterway

The Illinois DNR continues to work with contracted commercial fishers to prevent Asian carp from approaching the Chicago Area Waterway System and electric barrier system in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Romeoville. While commercial fishers have found no Asian carp near Chicago and the electric barrier system, they are finding ways to increase success of catching Asian carp in areas of the upper Illinois River, such as a mid-December netting operation near Ottawa, Illinois. 

"We continue to find innovative nets and methods to increase our efficiency to protect our Great Lakes by fishing new methods, such as the seine we pulled (the week of December 8, 2014) in Ottawa,” said IDNR Aquatic Nuisance Species Program Manager Kevin Irons. “We have found that fishing in both spring and fall can improve our catches, and in the seining at Ottawa, we fished in a new habitat — a side channel that obviously holds extreme numbers of fish in high concentrations in late fall.”

Because commercial fishing efforts have thinned the abundances of Asian carp in the Illinois Waterway, IDNR has worked with hydroacoustics technology supported by Southern Illinois University, along with the contracted fishers, to find hot spots to increase the efficiencies of catching Asian carp. The work began in 2010 near Morris, Illinois and has expanded within the Marseilles Pool to the next river reach downstream (Starved Rock Pool) and near and below Ottawa. This work has been highly successful over the past few years, removing more than 2.7 million pounds of Asian carp. The IDNR has not seen an advance of the leading edge of fish closer to Lake Michigan since monitoring the fish near I-55 and the Des Plaines River documented low numbers there in 2006. “The most recent removal efforts seem to be aiding our efforts,” said Irons.

The seine pulled the week of December 8th in Ottawa was 300 yards long.  

"At one point, we likely had 500,000 pounds of fish in the net; there were so many fish that the ties (the strings that hold the net together) started breaking as we were pulling, and several thousands of pounds got out of the net,” said Matt O’Hara, IDNR Asian Carp Project Leader. “The total removal from this seine haul will likely approach 100,000 pounds. It was the most Asian carp I have ever seen wrapped up in a single net, and many of the seasoned commercial fishermen agreed.  It was pretty impressive.”

While 54 miles and four physical barriers (dams) separate the location of this large removal effort from Lake Michigan,  efforts in locations like these are crucial to control adult populations. 

"This removal effort is in a reach of the Illinois River where we don’t have successful reproduction, only immigration from downstream," added Irons. "Our strategy is to remove fish in this region so that they do not migrate further upstream and challenge the barrier." 

The IDNR has worked closely with Federal agencies and university researches to identify how to best integrate traditional methods, such as commercial fishing, and new technologies, such as lures, deterrents and barriers, to help reduce the risk of Asian carp movement toward Lake Michigan. 

“The success of the relationship between commercial fishers and biologists, and a lot of hard work during this cold time of the year, is paying off,” added Irons. 

The December seine operation at Ottawa highlights just one of the success stories of the Illinois effort to fight invasive Asian carp. For much more detail on all that Illinois, Federal agencies and researchers are doing, check the website at www.asiancarp.us.

Please click here to see the original post on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.