Some of you might recall a blog post I made a little over a year ago, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2010/10/aaaaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh/ . It was a post about an illegal activity caught on film and my post stirred up quite a bit of discussion.
Time to stir the pot again. . . .
Take a little quiz for me, look at the next two fish photos.
What do those two fish have in common? Could an angler mistake one fish for the other?
Now let me tell you why I ask. Before I left the office last Friday, I got a call from our Fisheries Supervisor for northeast Nebraska, Jeff Schuckman. Jeff was very agitated about something; let me tell you what it was. We have an angler survey going on Lewis & Clark Reservoir. Late last week the clerk doing that survey encountered a couple of anglers fishing on Lewis & Clark who had fish in their livewell. At least one of those fish was a silver carp that they had caught below Gavins Point Dam, placed in their livewell and then hauled above the dam when they launched on Lewis & Clark. Their story was that they believed the fish to be a Chinook salmon.
Now you know why I posted those two fish pictures.
Personally, I have a hard time believing anyone could mistake a silver carp for a Chinook salmon, but that is beside the point. What irritates pointy-headed fisheries biologists about this incident is it once again proves that we have people out there illegally moving fish around. OK, I do not know for a fact that those gentlemen intended to release that silver carp above Gavins Point Dam (although if they honestly thought it was a Chinook salmon, what do you think they were going to do? Why did they put it in the livewell and then launch on Lewis & Clark?). The fact that they hauled a silver carp alive, above Gavins Point Dam is cause for concern.
By now we all know that there have been a bunch of fish moving both upstream and downstream during the Missouri River flood of 2011. Chinook salmon have moved out of Lake Oahe in South Dakota and now are being caught in Nebraska’s stretch of the Missouri River. We also know that the Asian carp, both bighead and silver carp are here–it is not news that those Asian carp species occupy our Missouri River and lower reaches of our tributaries to the Missouri. With all the flooding this summer, there now are A LOT more Asian carp in our Missouri River.
At this time, there is nothing that can be done about the Asian carp in the Missouri River; harvest all you want, have at ‘em. However, Gavins Point Dam is the lowest dam on the Missouri River and it very much acts as a barrier to the upstream movement of fish. There are plenty of Asian carp below Gavins Point Dam, but so far, none above. We would like to keep the thousands of miles of Missouri River and tributaries above Gavins Point Dam FREE from Asian carp and other exotic invasive species that might migrate up the Missouri. That can be done as long as some well-meaning, but ignorant, angler does not transport live fish above the dam and release them.
Am I up on a soap-box? Yep, you bet I am. And before I crawl down, let me “pound the pulpit” a little more. . . . It is illegal to release live fish without written authorization into any public body of water. For some reason this urge to move and stock fish seems like it is ingrained in some people’s DNA. I realize their intentions are good and in many cases the fish they transport and illegally stock in public waters are no problem at all, BUT there are a lot of cases of mistaken identity and there is the risk of unknowingly transporting unseen unwanted things like fish diseases, parasites or even microscopic larvae. If you know folks who are prone to move fish around, please try to educate them why that is NOT a good idea. If they insist, well, phone numbers for every conservation officer in the state can be found in the back of the Fishing Guide, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/fishing/guides/fishguide/pdf/FishGuide.pdf , as well as the Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers number (800-742-7627). Find the appropriate phone number, call, and keep calling. The health of our fisheries and YOUR fishing could depend on it.
NOTE: I am going to be out of the office for the next couple, three days. As I write this I am trying to chase down rumors of another potential state record fish. So far I have no more information other than what I have seen floating around the internet. Stay tuned, I have that and a lot more interesting fish-related stuff to blog about in the coming days!