By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer
Exotic fish are beginning to grow in local lakes.
But, not all exotic fish are welcomed.
In 1884, according to a recent story in Kentucky Afield Outdoors, brown trout (Salmo trutta), a European native, was introduced into the Baldwin River in Michigan.
Now the brown trout are thriving through North America, South America, Australia and in New Zealand.
In Kentucky, annually the brown trout are stocked in 10 streams and three tail waters.
The state brown trout record caught from the Cumberland River in 2000 weighed 21 pounds.
But, not all exotic fish are welcomed in Kentucky public waters.
Those fish, intentional or otherwise, have become detrimental to native fish populations.
Jeff Ross, assistant director of the Fisheries Division for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said, in the story, “Don’t transport live bait to other river systems or any lake. When you’re done fishing it’s best to dump your bait on the shore, just to be on the safe side.”
The alewife is similar to the shad. It’s another forage type species.
He explained that the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), which is a forage fish, came into Kentucky in the 1990s. It was thriving in the deep, cool waters of Lake Cumberland.
“Then we noticed that alewives have started to show up in three state walleye lakes, Laurel River Lake, Carr Creek Lake and Green River Lake,” Ross said.
Alewives not only feed on plankton that sport fish eat, but the sport fish themselves, when they are newly hatched.
In Carr Creek Lake they found that once alewives get a foothold, their populations expand rapidly, at the expense of shad.
Ross added, “At one time they made up nearly half of the lake’s forage base. They grow so fast after hatching that they are too large for the newly-stocked walleye to eat.”
“Alewives have been in Cumberland for a long time. And striped bass utilize them regularly for food. They work pretty well at Lake Cumberland,” said Ross.
The alewives swim near the edge of the lake and the bass come up and eat them.
“The anglers can go out and throw top water baits that mimic the alewife spawning and catch really nice striped bass at night,” he added.
“They’ve worked well at Cumberland but people see that and say, ‘Let’s take them and move them to somewhere else’ and the alewife will feed on fish, particularly young sport fish.”
The alewife should be in waters with fish such as striped bass, where they will become food for the fish.
The alewives are three to four inches long.
The Asian carp is our biggest current threat.
It’s on the Mississippi River and Ohio River all along the boundaries of Kentucky.
Silver and bighead carp escaped from fish culturists in Arkansas in the last 1970s.
They are presently in significant numbers in the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, lower Cumberland, lower Kentucky, lower Salt and lower Green river basins in Kentucky.
That carp can grow to over 100 pounds and there are a lot in the 30, 40, 50 pound range.
“One of the issues of the silver carp is the boat vibrations from the motors. They’ll jump. Lots of people call them the jumping carp,” Ross said.
“With a 40 pounder flyng through the air they’ve hit people and done siginficant damage,” he said.
A serious concern is that holders of sport fishing licenses, who can legally take live bait with seines and cast nets from public waters, run the risk of unknowingly spreading the invasive carp species to other streams and lakes in Kentucky.
The Asian carp compete directly with native sport fish species because they feed on zooplankton. Young silver carp look remarkably similar to the threadfin and gizzard shad that anglers target for bait.
Ross said the bighead and the silver carp’s main thrust is at this point, “What we really need to do is to is push hard to get a market going.”
“There’s a small market going right now but we’re pushing hard to work with exports to China. They actually came from there. They look to our fish here as the quality in carps. There’s a market for export we need to take advantage of.”
Ross added, “They are really good to eat. The problem with them is that they are very boney. Once you get the meat off them they are really good, mild white meat. I think the people would be really surprised if they tried it.”
A Kentucky Administrative Regulation states “no live fish, live bait fish or live bait organisms that are into native or established in Kentucky waters shall be be bought sold, possessed, imported or in any way used or released into waters of this Commonwealth.”
The regulation has a list of exotic fish species that may not be imported, sold or held in captivity in Kentucky including the piranha, Mexican banded tetra, sea lamprey, walking catfish or snakehead.
Ross explained that the exotics have a “high recruitment rate. They produce more young, so they gain in advantage over our native fish species.”
By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer
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