10 Million Pounds of Invasive Carp Removed Under Tennessee Incentive Program

by Jon D. B.

Florida may have their python bounty hunters. But here in the ol’ Volunteer State, we’ve got ourselves some commercial carp crusaders.

If you fish, then you know what a huge problem carp have become – especially in Tennessee. Thanks to a new government incentive program, however, the Volunteer State now has millions of pounds less carp in its waterways.

That’s a whopper of a number, right there. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (known here in the state as TWRA) is reporting an astounding 10 million pounds of invasive carp removal from state waterways. And it’s all thanks to a brilliant new state incentive program.

The TWRA calls it their Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program. It began in 2018, and we now know that by July of 2021 the program has surpassed the 10 million mark in poundage, the agency says via TN.gov.

The problem is believed to be the Mississippi river at large. The vast waterway has proven a perfect home for all four invasive species of Asian carp known to the U.S. These are: the bighead, black, grass, and silver carp. From the Mississippi, these fish – which can grow to monstrous sizes – are threatening wide swaths of aquatic ecosystems. Their gargantuan girth and hunger tend to starve our native species out of house and home.

Carp mostly come to Tennessee via the locks of Kentucky and Barkley Dams. Their presence is enormous in Reelfoot Lake in the northwestern corner of the state. The invasive fish have wreaked enough havoc that the TWRA has enlisted commercial fishermen to help stop the damage from progressing to a point of no return. And clearly – it is working.

Tennessee’s Commercial Carp Crusaders Reel in Invasive Species

“Commercial harvest is a key strategy to defend our waters from the impacts and expansion of invasive carp,” says Cole Harty, TWRA Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator. “The other key strategy to prevent the spread of carp to waters upstream is deterrents.”

Of the wide damage the four species of Asian carp are causing, one of the biggest threats lies with Tennessee’s endangered mussel and snail populations. These mollusks would still thrive along the Mississippi and her tributaries if not for these foreign fish.

In addition, carp have a nasty habit of flinging their large bodies into boats and injuring anglers. And if you’ve ever spent an entire day fishing in TN only to bring up ugly, inedible carp after carp – you know this is all dam good news there, too.

To catch the fish, TWRA is supporting the implementation of the BioAcoustic Fish Fence (BAFF). The agency is behind their use at Barkey Dam in Kentucky, and preliminary results are promising, officials say.

“Though no deterrent is expected to be 100 percent effective… Even moderate levels of deterrence can significantly reduce the number of fish moving upstream through locks,” TWRA’s Harty adds. “Deterrents, when coupled with commercial harvest near the source of carp immigration, is the best strategy we have to prevent the spread of carp to waters upstream.”

The agency cites Wilson, Kentucky, Pickwick and Guntersville dams are also in need of “urgent” intervention. This will benefit the entire Tennessee River system, including upstream reservoirs.

Good work, lads & ladies!