Asian carp caught in Mississippi River near Winona

Asian carp
From left to right: Commercial fishermen George Richtman, Tim Adams and Bob Davis hold Asian carp caught March 1, 2012 in the Mississippi River. Richtman is holding a grass carp, Adams is holding a silver carp and Davis is holding a bighead carp.
Photo courtesy Nicholas Schlesser, MN DNR

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say two types of Asian carp were caught last week in the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

A commercial fisherman caught a silver carp and a bighead carp on March 1 near Winona.

The silver carp is known to jump out of the water and strike boaters in the head. Officials say both types of carp have the potential to cause serious ecological problems to Minnesota fisheries.

Minnesota can still learn from the experience of other states that have dealt with the invasive carp, said Steve Hirsch, the DNR's Eco-Waters Division director.

"The situation is urgent," Hirsch said. In the southern states, he said, "As these fish moved up they went through a period like what we're going through now where they would occasional see big fish and it would start to become more and more common and it seems like they reach a threshold and then they start reproducing and they become abundant."

Asian carp have the potential to out-compete native fish for food, Hirsch said.

"They're intercepting the food chain because they're a big fish that feeds very far down on the food chain," Hirsh said. "We don't have any fish like that so we're afraid they'd really be able to out-compete our native species."

Bighead carp can weigh up to 110 pounds and silver carp up to 60 pounds. They are voracious eaters, capable of consuming 5 to 20 percent of their body weight each day. They feed on algae and other microscopic organisms.

Officials say individual Asian carp have been caught by commercial fishermen in recent years. Three silver carp were caught between 2008 and 2011 near La Crosse. One bighead carp was caught in 1996 and one in 2011 in the St. Croix River. Six bighead carp were caught between 2003 and 2009 in the Mississippi River between Lake Pepin and the Iowa border.

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