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UPDATE: Fox River carp not a bighead

February 09, 2009 at 06:25 AM

The dead carp found floating on the Fox River near Montgomery on Saturday has turned out to be just a grass carp according to a blog entry by Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The fish was reported by Don Rego, president of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance. Initial identification was that the fist was a bighead carp. But a review of pictures showed it was indeed a grass carp.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Actually the fish was a grass carp, as it turns out.
I spoke with Marc Miller about it, who subsequently connected us with Mike Conlin, who quickly identified it for us.

The unitiated would easily mistake various carp species, hence the need for educational photo identification cards.
The Illinois Smallmouth Alliance is working toward providing these Watch Cards for all of the nearly 600 members in the group. People who spend a great deal of time in IL rivers and streams need to have timely information at their fingertips, so that is something we recognize and a concern we will address quickly.
Many thanks to our newest IDNR director and Mike Conlin for assisting in this matter.

Posted by Mike Clifford on 02/08 at 05:26 PM

Dale Bowman now has a photo on his blog, with the entry about this fish.
I don’t know if the photo is of the fish that was found, but it is a photo of a Grass Carp. Grass carp eat primarily weeds. At least until they get big, then they may start to consume both weeds and small prey.
Grass Carp are non-native as well, but at least to me, this is not as alarming as a Big-head being found.
Grass Carp are fairly commonly stocked in a triploid, or sterile form, as a means of weed control. Typically, they are put into privately owned waters such as golf course lakes, and subdivision lakes, to reduce unsightly weed-growth.
It is entirely possible that the fish pictured in Bowman’s blog is one of these stocked, sterile fish that was transported into the Fox by high water. And we have had plenty of high water events in the last two years.
As I said, there is no indication in Dale’s blog if the fish pictured is actually the one found, but if it is, I hope that it was given to the DNR so they can determine wether it is sterile or not.
If it is not (sterile) well, that’s not so good.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 05:40 PM

Thanks for your input, Raptor.
It is indeed the fish in question.
Don is a good friend of mine, and not having seen the fish in question I made the recommendation that he contact Dale while I made a call to Marc Miller to ascertain the best course of action.

Here, we are some of the most ardent stream fishermen in the state, and we had no idea how to go about reporting any sort of questionable catch.
Don fishes for smallmouth bass more often than anyone I know, so an unusual carp (not typical of a riverine environment like the Fox) of this sort was uncommon for him.
My first impression was that the eye is located below the jaw line, so I did a search and found stark differences in the scales of grass carp versus Asian Bighead and Silvers.

I fully agree with your assessment that high water events may have brought this fish into the river from someplace else.
Regardless, it has been a great learning experience for all, and the impetus for a strong educational focus.

Mike Clifford
Conservation Director
Illinois Smallmouth Alliance

Posted by Mike Clifford on 02/08 at 05:53 PM

Mr. Clifford,
it is interesting to me that you mention some people’s inability to identify some fish species.
On two different occassions, I encountered fishermen at the dam with juvenile black carp in their buckets. On one occassion, they did not know what kind of fish they were, as they asked me if I knew. They didn’t know what they were, or if they were legal to keep, but they were keeping them.
This is another way that invasive species spread. They could wind up above the dam, or in another body of water.
This is the reason that it is illegal to possess live black carp, grass carp, round gobies…etc.
On a related note, I encountered a fisherman on the Wisconsin River that had kept a Bowfin, fearing that he had caught a snakehead.
He asked if I knew what it was, and when I explained the differences, and told him that Bowfin are native and unique, he released it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 05:57 PM

We have spent hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) developing and installing signs to educate the public on identifying smallmouth bass, and signs specific to reporting poachers and pollution in streams across the entire state.

Most of my time spent outside working an actual job to feed my family is spent on conservation related issues- including the invasive species issue.
Sometimes it takes the obvious to smack us upside the head to understand that as hard as we are working to educate others, we don’t stop to think how we ourselves might not be educated well enough if we were holding a Bighead or Grass Carp in our hands.
I had seen the Watch Cards from the IL-IN SeaGrant program, and made it a point to get those cards distributed at some point, but life gets in the way sometimes.
This weekend, we learned first-hand that yesterday would have been the day to accomplish this task, but today is better than never.

Posted by Mike Clifford on 02/08 at 06:23 PM

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