ENCOUNTER NO LAUGHING MATTER
I got a firsthand experience recently with a big silver Asian carp that jumped and hit me in the back as I was pulling up to the pier at Paris Landing Inn for lunch. I normally dock there at noon and made the usual routine approach of swinging my boat over the backwater bay in order to pull straight up to the pier when out of nowhere came the surprising encounter.
The 5-pound plus fish hammered me from behind and startled me as I was about to reach for the pier and tie up the boat. My motor, which was still running, must have spooked him and he lunged high up in the air only to clash with me, knocking me toward the console.
I was taken by surprise and my client, Jack Cantwell from Pensacola, FL., was up in the front of the boat about to tie the bow when he yelled at me upon seeing the jumping carp attack. I was indeed blindsided and let me tell you itís a bit scary.
After the fact it was somewhat of a laugh but it could have been dangerous had it hit me in the face or perhaps gotten spooked while the boat was traveling at higher speeds.
Upon telling a few fishing buddies about the surprise attack they immediately branded my boat the ďCarp ArkĒ! It was a fitting title as the slimy rascal did a good job of dirtying up my jacket and back deck of the boat where his green residue left evidence of the brief visit.
Before I could get up close and personal with this jumping Joe he flopped a few times and back in the lake he went. It all happened in a matter of a few short seconds.
Since then I have returned daily on the same path and idled up to the pier as I have hundreds of times and while another encounter has not occurred, it is indeed on my mind each time I ease up to the floating pier. Iím a bit gun shy if I say so myself.
As a professional guide Iím concerned about the encroachment of Asian carp into Kentucky Lake waters. Having a college degree in biology makes me worry even more as I know the potential degradation of this invasive species.
The fish are plankton feeders and compete with shad and other fish that need zooplankton, especially in their infancy. Other species such as spoonbill catfish, known biologically as paddlefish, are yet another species that will decline as the carp will eventually out compete them for food.
Itís only a matter of time before someone really gets hurt by these big fish that spook easy and jump like crazy when startled. So far, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hasnít implemented any measures to control or slow the aggressive spread of this non-native fish that seems to have no enemies as they increase rapidly.
Commercial fishermen have been catching them for years in nets and have reported a steady increase in numbers these last few years. There is a Big Head and Silver species and the Silver is the one that jumps.
For those of you who love recreational boating and perhaps dart about on jet skis itís only a matter of time before you encounter one. Same goes for anglers as there is indeed a carp encounter in your future.
Stay tuned as thereís more to this carp caper than most people realize. I donít have all the answers but it seems getting commercial fishermen involved to the extent they can harvest and help control the spread of this Asian invasion is a step in the right direction.
Right now they canít get much per pound as there is no processing plant nearby and the fish are fragile to handle as they decompose quickly and must be flash frozen in order to reach market destinations.
My friend Richard Sinclair, owner of Sinclairís Fish Market and veteran commercial fisherman, has been telling me for years about the influx of these fish. He too is concerned about their potential effect on the fishery here.
More on that later as I plan to do an in-depth story soon with Sinclair and other area commercial fishermen who have quite a story to tell.
Both Kentucky and Tennessee have been slow to act on this increasing problem that is still somewhat misunderstood by the public.
Unfortunately, it may take some serious accidents before the public
demands more attention be given by fish and wildlife agencies to better
address the issue. One thing is abundantly clear; ignoring the problem and
lack of action is not the answer.
Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.
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