Anglers who love to fish the Great Lakes find the news that bighead and silver carps have been found near Lake Michigan of great concern. These invasive species are voracious feeders that can grow to weigh as much as 100 pounds. Fishermen will be disappointed if walleye, bass, and perch don’t bite, but what is much worse is that the entire Great Lakes area sport fishing economy could be in danger.
Bighead and silver carps have a possible access route into Lake Michigan from the Illinois River, which connects to the Mississippi River. The carps are already established in the Mississippi. However, combined efforts to protect the lakes are underway.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox Takes Action
In a press release, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced that he has requested the United States Supreme Court to order officials in charge of Chicago area locks and waterways to close them in order to prevent bighead and silver carps from entering Lake Michigan. “Stopping Asian carp is an economic and environmental necessity for Michigan,” said Cox.
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray Joins Effort to Protect Great Lakes
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced in a press released “that the state of Ohio will file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to stop the spread of Asian carp, which are considered a major threat to the Great Lakes fishing industry.” Cordray explains that bringing the matter to the Supreme Court is a proper means of resolving disputes that arise between states. A subsequent press release, states, “An estimated 450,000 people fish in Ohio’s waters each year, contributing some $680 million to Ohio’s economy,” Cordray said. “The introduction of Asian carp to this body of water would be ecologically and economically devastating.”
Michigan’s suit requests that a case that began over 100 years ago be reopened. In 1900, Missouri protested when Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River. After that issue was resolved, several states, including Michigan, claimed that Chicago was harming the lakes by diverting too much water and lowering water levels. The court ruled at that time that Chicago could divert no more than 1.2 billion gallons of water from the lake per day. Michigan’s suit seeks an order to close the locks and create new barriers against the carps.
How Will Lake Erie Fishing Be Affected?
Although biologists believe that there is not sufficient evidence of a breeding population of bighead carp or silver carp in the Great Lakes at this time, the proximity of these invasive species to the lakes has created a situation that demands immediate action. Chicago area reporter Dale Bowman writes that bighead carp have been caught in Chicago’s lagoons on several occasions, the first in 2003. (“We’ve wasted millions on electric barrier boondoggle”,The Chicago Sun-Times). Bighead and silver carps feed on plankton, which means that they will only establish populations in areas with enough biological productivity to produce the great masses of plankton necessary to sustain them. Unfortunately for anglers, these are the same areas that sustain favorite sport fish such as walleye, bass, and perch. There may still be time, though, for the surrounding states, working with the federal government and other concerned parties, to protect the beloved fisheries of the Great Lakes from an invasion of bighead and silver carps.