IDNR still battling Asian carp count in Rock Run
BY CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN email@example.com April 11, 2013 6:40PM
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo, Asian bighead carp swim in an exhibit at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. The Army Corps of Engineers is studying whether to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds, which could include returing the rivers original flow in an attemp to stop Asian carp and other invasive spiecies from traveling through the two basins. The flow of the river into the lake was reversed in the late 1800's to prevent pollution from reaching Lake Michigan. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
Updated: May 13, 2013 6:37AM
JOLIET — Asian carp are so plentiful in the Rock Run Rookery Preserve Lake, the state is going to continue to harvest the invasive species for at least a few more weeks.
Also, starting Friday, about 20 fish will be tagged to see if they are traveling from the lake back to the river. Biologists will surgically implant the radio tags, which are the size of a lipstick case, and then close the fish up using super glue and about three stitches, said Kevin Irons, aquatic nuisance species program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which is overseeing the harvest.
So far, 325 bighead and silver carp totaling about 8,000 pounds have been pulled from the lake, said Marcy DeMauro, executive director of the Will County Forest Preserve District, which owns the lake at Route 6 and Youngs Road.
“The numbers are higher than we thought,” Irons said.
At first, the IDNR planned to be in Will County for only a couple of weeks. But even after five fishing expeditions, fish hauls are still high.
“They have not seen a decline in what they’re pulling out,” DeMauro said at Thursday’s forest preserve district meeting.
Irons said in a phone interview that hiring commercial fishermen to harvest fish from the lake is all part of IDNR’s plan to try to reduce the number of Asian carp in the state’s waterways. The first part of the program was to catch Asian carp in the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers. Now the IDNR is going after fish in nooks and crannies along the rivers.
Some of the tagged fish from the Rock Run Rookery will be removed from the lake and placed in the river to see if they return to the lake, he said. Irons said IDNR is hoping the tagged fish will be like “Trojan horses” and lead them to other pockets of Asian carp.
Hundreds of fish have been tagged in the past four or five years and there are radio beacons from Lake Michigan to St. Louis to see where the Asian carp are going, he said.
So far, it appears the fish are only spawning downstream, Irons said. There are no signs of eggs or larvae much north of Chillicothe.
IDNR harvesting shouldn’t interfere with public access of the Rock Run Rookery lake, DeMauro said. Commercial fishermen go out into the lake in small steel boats and use nets to trap the Asian carp.
The forest preserve district first learned there were Asian carp in the lake last fall. The fish are getting into the lake from the Des Plaines River via a channel that is a holdover from when the lake was a private quarry.
District officials called IDNR, which is working to keep the invasive fish from traveling up the Des Plaines River and Chicago Sanitary & Ship canal and getting into Lake Michigan. Asian carp eat massive quantities of plankton, which is the food source for smaller fish that game fish prey on. If Asian carp get into Lake Michigan, state and federal officials fear the fish will decimate native game fish populations in the lake and its tributaries.
Three electric barriers are in place in the shipping canal between Lockport and Romeoville to prevent Asian carp from getting farther north.
IDNR has hired commercial fisherman to catch as many carp as possible between Joliet and Starved Rock. Since 2010, IDNR has harvested 1.5 million pounds of fish. Harvest fish are turned into fertilizer so as to not compete with commercial fisherman who catch Asian carp south of Starved Rock and sell them to Asian food markets, Irons said.
IDNR has contracted with Schafer Fisheries in Thompson to provide refrigerated trucks to collect and remove the fish so they can be turned into fertilizer, Irons said.
Irons said as more Asian carp are used for pet food, fertilizer or human consumption, it will help reduce the numbers in Illinois waterways and better protect Lake Michigan.
“We’re tightening the noose,” he said.