Earlier this week, some commercial fishers on the St. Croix River, not far from Prescott, Wisconsin, hauled up their nets and found they’d snagged a little something extra.
The word “little” may not actually apply here. This was a tough, 26-inch-long, seven-pound slapper with a scaly silver hide and bulging eyes. They called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to report the silver carp.
It was “disappointing,” DNR invasive fish coordinator Nick Frohnauer said in a statement, but not “surprising.” Two other fish had been caught in the St. Croix in 2017. But the capture of a silver carp near our borders was cause for at least muted alarm.
Minnesota is no stranger to the invasive carp, which are originally from Asia. They’re big, bony and can grow up to 90 pounds just feeding off the scum on the beds of lakes and rivers, and out-compete native fish for food. But in the case of the silver carp, they will also jump up to 10 feet out of the water when disturbed.
What disturbs them? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, pretty much everything: Skipping rocks, passing trains, flying geese, and even just finding themselves in a cramped place. But they're especially excited by boat motors.
Which leads us to the silver carp’s greatest claim to fame: Getting so scared that it actually jumps into a boat and slaps a passenger across the face. In the central United States, where silver carp are thriving, the results look something like this:
DNR officials worry that more of these boneheaded fish will make their way over the Iowa border through the Winona lock and dam. If they can do that, they could find their way into the St. Croix and breed up a storm.
Or, worse, they’ll filter into the Minnesota River, which has waters murky and polluted enough to keep a legion of hungry carp happy and well-fed.
What’s to be done? As the Star Tribune reported, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota is busy dreaming up and testing smarter carp barriers – some electrical, some sound-based.
If you stumble across a silver carp – or one bounces across your face -- call the DNR at 651-587-2781 or email [email protected]