Carlyle Lake has success with first carp-catching venture

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CARLYLE, Ill. -- The first commercial fishing venture to remove pesky Asian carp from the Kaskaskia River below the spillway at Carlyle Lake has been deemed a success.

Rob Maher, commercial fishing program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said that 60,000 pounds of Asian carp were harvested from the spillway in December.

"We went into it viewing it as really a no-lose situation, so it would be hard for it to be a failure," Maher said. "We would have liked to have taken 20 times as many fish out, but we don't have the market for it.

"It is what it is. It's 30 less tons of those fish in the Kaskaskia River, so from that perspective, I would say it's a success. It's still naive to think that's going to take care of the problem with those fish, but it's certainly a step in the right direction."

The trial contract ran for three weeks last month, ending on Dec. 31. The two commercial crews, headed by Carlyle natives Chad Isaak and Joe Curry, removed the fish by stringing gill and trammel nets from bank to bank along the narrow spillway.

Isaak and his crew herded the Asian carp into the nets with a johnboat, much like a rancher herds cattle into a pen. Isaak -- who only fished four days during the period -- hauled the fish to a processor in Pike County, where he received 10 cents a pound.

"It's entirely driven by the market," Maher said. "If there were more of a market, he would have spent a lot more of that three-week period down there fishing."

State and local officials are trying to curb the spread of Asian carp before they reach Carlyle Lake. The fish -- who are voracious eaters, bullying food away from native fish -- entered the Kaskaskia River from the Mississippi near Evansville and have made it all the way north to Carlyle.

The only thing keeping them out of Illinois' largest man-made lake is the dam.

"It's a significant amount of fish, but it's probably a very small drop in a very large bucket where the population of the fish are concerned," Maher said. "If that were an isolated area down there where fish couldn't get back in there and couldn't recolonize after he caught them, you'd notice taking 60,000 pounds out of that small of an area.

"The problem is the Kaskaskia River has so many in it, as does the Mississippi River where it empties into. There's just no end in sight. It's absolutely mind-boggling how many of those fish are out there."

Maher said the DNR would be willing to offer more commercial fishing contracts for the spillway, provided the market improves and river conditions are favorable.

"We certainly wouldn't be opposed to it," Maher said. "Everything has to line up. You have to have the buyer willing to take the fish. You have to have the conditions to catch fish, and they all have to come together as well.

"It's a win-win situation, I think it was pretty well-received from the local anglers over there. I think everybody recognizes this is a big problem and wants to see something done about it."

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