Kansas anglers are being warned that possession of prohibited species such as silver carp is illegal.
A few years ago, adult silver carp were first noticed in the Kansas River, leaping high in the air and endangering boaters. These non-native fish have a peculiar habit of leaping completely out of the water as a motorboat passes over, but their presence threatens more than boaters.
Silver carp, along with the bighead carp, are extremely prolific breeders and threaten channel catfish, bass, walleye, crappie as well as bait fish anywhere they are spread.
High water this spring has made the situation worse, creating a reproductive explosion of these fish, which, in addition to endangering native species, are illegal to possess alive. Biologists from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) are monitoring the situation, but without the help of responsible anglers, things could get much worse.
As of Aug. 2, young-of-the-year (2 to 3 inches long) Asian carp were “stacked up by the hundreds of thousands” below Johnson County WaterOne Coffer Dam, according to KDWP aquatic nuisance specialist Jason Goeckler.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” the biologist said. “The water is just loaded with them. You can stick a dip net in and pull up 100 or more at a time, and our real concern is that — because they could easily be mistaken for shad or other minnows — anglers will put them in their bait buckets and take them to other waters.”
Just putting these fish in a bait bucket is illegal. Silver carp and bighead carp are on the state list of species that are illegal to import, possess, or release alive in Kansas. That means they cannot be kept if taken in a seine, put in a bait bucket, or used for bait unless they are killed first. Violation is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
While many anglers seine their own bait, few can readily identify one “minnow” from another. But it’s easy to learn. Go online to kdwp.state.ks.us, then click “Fishing/Aquatic Nuisance Species/Aquatic Nuisance Species List/Asian Carp.”
The website includes pictures and detailed descriptions of the fish, as well as a link to a video on Asian carp by famous angler Bill Dance. Dance discusses not only how to indentify the fish but the dangers of their spread.