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Over 6 million pounds of invasive carp now removed from Kentucky waters annually thanks to harvest partnerships

Silver Carp
Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee
Silver Carp

If you’ve traveled along or across Kentucky water, you’ve likely encountered at least one species of carp. It’s possible you may have even been struck by one while on a boat or kayak.

The fish are not native to this region and continue to be of great concern to wildlife officials across the nation.


Jeffrey Herod is the Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). He told WKU Public Radio that the fish have been plaguing area waterways for decades after being brought into the area to control algae in wastewater treatment facilities.

“Invasive carp are a nonnative species that were introduced in the United States in the 1970s. Flood events allowed them to escape the ponds they were being held in, and once they escaped, the carp made their way into the Mississippi River Basin, where they rapidly expanded. To this day, carp continue to increase their numbers,” he said.

Because these fish have such a high reproductive rate, they can outcompete native species for resources, in addition to outgrowing predators.

According to KDFWR, some females can even produce over 1 million eggs a year.


Jumping Carp
Morris, Jessica (FW)
Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee
Jumping Carp

The four species of carp that are of concern to wildlife officials include the bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, and silver carp, which pose the most risk.

Silver carp are very sensitive to sound and exhibit jumping behavior when startled. As a result, this can put them on a collision course with boaters, causing injury to individuals and damage to property.

“When you see these fish leaving the water, they’re actually a very large species of fish, so you’re talking about a fish that can be eight, ten-, or twelve-pounds colliding with someone who is operating a boat,” Herod said.

He added that broken noses and other serious physical injuries are not uncommon when encountering these fish, especially if a collision occurs at a high rate of speed.

Tackling the problem

To combat the dangers of carp, wildlife officials have taken a couple different approaches. The first involves the use of a Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) in some locations, which steers fish away from select areas.

“The BAFF uses sound, bubbles, and light to deter fish from entering that particular area,” Herod said. “It actually spooks fish away from moving into a lock, where they may be able to pass up further into the river.”

A more aggressive tactic has been the physical removal of large quantities of carp, with state wildlife officials partnering with commercial fishing organizations to get the job done.

“There is some harvest that goes on in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, and then we have another harvest program that is in the Ohio River and its tributaries,” Herod said. “These are unique approaches from one another but have combined to remove between 6 to 9 million pounds per year of invasive carp since 2019.”

Lake to table

With the removal of millions of pounds of carp, it poses the question, “What happens to the fish once they are removed?”

Herod said that carp are a resource that is being utilized.

“These fish do go to a processor, and most of those carp go to food items. Some of these fish will be turned into fertilizer. I have recently discovered that there is a small amount that goes into pet treats,” he said.

However, Herod added that he thinks the fish are somewhat underused, noting that this will likely change as the problem continues.

“I feel that on the horizon, we’re going to see more marketplaces setting up, and we’ll see more development around this resource. I think there is a lot of opportunity with that.”

More information about invasive carp and how state wildlife officials are combating the problem can be found at the KDFWR website.

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