G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has tried numerous ways to rid waters of the unwanted Asian carp, especially the silver carp, which are plankton feeders and threaten the well-being of native fish and mussels by over-harvesting that vital source of nutrition.
They’ve netted some and buried them on the banks. They’ve sponsored fishing competitions by commercial fishermen with cash awards to the ones seining and netting and killing the most of these Asian fish.
Now, as is sometimes the case, nature has stepped in to do what man couldn’t do.
The department reported recently that the worst of a fish kill that has claimed upward of a half million Asian carp in the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley dam is believed to be over.
On April 25 fisheries biologists with the department returned to the area as the focus shifted to learning what might have caused the considerable die-off of invasive silver carp.
“Anglers were seeing dead fish a week ago, some two weeks ago, which is very typical of a fish kill caused by some type of viral pathogen,” said Paul Rister, western fisheries district biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “It’s kind of a bell-shaped curve. You start seeing a few die, and a few more die, and then you reach the peak of the massive die-off. I think we’re on that downhill side now.” After conferring with Asian carp researchers from around the country, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Fisheries Director Ron Brooks said the belief among experts is that the fish kill found below Barkley Dam to the Cumberland River’s confluence with the Ohio River is the largest ever involving Asian carp in the United States. Silver carp, which are not native to the United States, appear to be the only fish affected.
“It’s comforting to know there’s something out there that might take these things out before they just devastate everything,” Brooks said. “Right now we just don’t have it.”
To help move the mass of fish downriver, the U.S. Corps of Engineers opened three gates at Barkley Dam to flush dead fish downstream. “I don’t think people have to worry about those pathogens affecting native species,” Brooks said. “That’s probably the best news of all.”
While the cause has not been confirmed, possibilities include overstress from spawning or the presence of a pathogen that disrupts brain function in the fish, Brooks said.
“Any time you have an event where there are a lot of fish congregating, it’s just like any other animal, the chance for a pathogen to spread increases,” he said. “Whether it’s that pathogen or some other stressor, no one will know until we get word from the researchers.”
Dying silver carp collected from the area by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will undergo disease testing at Kentucky State University.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife also is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as agencies from bordering states and Purdue University. Fisheries biologists visited nearby Kentucky Lake dam Friday after receiving reports of dead Asian carp on the Tennessee River. After investigating the area, the cause of death of those fish is believed to be due to bow anglers and snaggers.
Asian carp find the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers hospitable because the water discharged from Lake Barkley and neighboring Kentucky Lake is so fertile, Brooks said. He is hopeful researchers find something from this fish kill that leads to the eventual eradication of Asian carp for good.
Here’s a little news from the annual Portsmouth Trout Derby, the 2014 version held a couple of weeks ago on Turkey Creek Lake, seven miles northwest of Portsmouth.
John Vinson Euton took his 14-inch rainbow trout up to the Jaycees’ booth to register it, and he was glad he did. His fish won for the biggest fish in his age category and also came in third overall.
He won a host of prizes, including a tacklebox, a smaller box with lures, a rod and reel, a folding chair, a sweat shirt and a plaque.
Sorry I can’t report the other results but I was not able to reach the person with information in time for the deadline here.
Euton usually fishes in his kayak, but he left it ashore after Charles Jones, from Alabama, invited him to join him in his boat, which had an electric trolling motor.
Like other boats around them, they caught trout by trolling back and forth in the lake.
Jones caught three trout and a crappie. He lost the first trout, his nicest one at 10 inches, after he didn’t get the lid fastened properly on the fish basket.
Euton landed two other trout besides his winner. He caught his on a small yellow spinner while Jones got his on a white spinner.
“This was the best trout derby they’ve had in a long time. Usually it’s cold enough for gloves, or its raining and windy, but we had some really decent weather for this one,” Euton said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.