My name is Ross Dames and I am a Fisheries Management Biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. My crew and I ran onto Robert the evening of October 27 as we were preparing to conduct an electrofishing survey of walleye and sauger, two popular sport fishes, just downstream of Lock and Dam 20 at Canton, MO. Robert was setting up camp for the night at Canton Ferry Access. Temperatures dropped to 26 degrees during the night.
Apparently, Robert had his first encounter with silver carp earlier in the day. Silver carp, and their close relative bighead carp, are non-native, invasive fish species. They were originally brought to the U.S. from Asia for aquaculture, but as often happens, they escaped confinement and established reproducing populations in the Upper Mississippi River System. They are now very abundant in both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. These fish are sensitive to vibrations in the water. Sound waves from a boat, outboard motor, or a bang on the side of a aluminum canoe often sends these fish, especially silver carp, into a frenzy. When excited, silver carp leap out of the water, sometimes reaching several feet into the air. It might be just one or two fish, but often there are 10, 20, 30 or even more in a group. Sometimes these fish literally jump into the boat! Several boaters have been injured by colliding with an airborne silver carp. Some of these fish may weigh well over 30 pounds.
These fish not only pose a risk to people who boat on the river, but may also impact native fish communities in the Upper Mississippi River System. Asian carp are filter-feeders, eating zooplankton, phytoplankton, and organic particles suspended in the water. The same stuff many native fish species eat. Scientists are much concerned that asian carp may eventually outcompete some native fish with similar diets, fish like buffalo, an important commercial species, paddlefish, and gizzard shad, an important prey species that many other fish rely on for food. So you see, asian carp don't belong in North American rivers, but they are here and now scientists are looking for ways to control their expansion and abundance. You can find a lot more about asian carp on the internet.