BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The federal government is paying for South Dakota’s efforts to learn more about the latest species of non-native carp invading waters in the southeastern part of the state.

That’s according to Benjamin ‘BJ’ Schall, a fish biologist with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.

He told the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Friday that the department received a total of $694,000 of federal anti-carp aid during the past three years and is in line for another $430,000 this fall.

“Everything we have done has been on silver and bighead carp,” Schall said.

The money has gone to projects intended to better understand those new varieties that have made their way into South Dakota. They’ve come up the Big Sioux River as far as Falls Park in Sioux Falls, they’re in all of the James River, they’ve made it up the Vermillion River as far as the East Vermillion dam spillway, and they’re up the Missouri River to Gavins Point Dam at Yankton.

Several of the projects are coordinated with University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, involving four graduate students, a post-graduate researcher and a variety of undergraduate students.

According to Schall, the work so far includes:

A movement study of silver carp using acoustic tagging.

A DNA-tracking study using water samples.

A bait-shop study throughout South Dakota and four other states in the Missouri River basin.

A natal-origins study using micro-chemistry on otoliths (ear stones).

A habitat suitability assessment.

A hydrological connectivity assessment on movement between water bodies.

Common carp weren’t native to the United States, either, but a federal government project in the 1800s brought them from Germany. Now they’re found throughout much of the U.S., including South Dakota.

The commission’s chair, Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion, said silver carp have become a nuisance to people on the water in her area — “They hit our boats, they hit our people, they hit our faces. There are a lot of them.” — and she asked what states are doing to reduce their populations.

Schall said Kansas was the only one in the Missouri River basin doing removals at this time.

Among other questions that commissioners asked: Did low water on the Big Sioux River last year affect reproduction?

Schall said a majority of fish that winter-killed were silver carp. Low water stresses fish, he said — “They probably did not successfully spawn last year.” — but deep snows that fell this winter point to a resurgence. “A lot of snow melt and water coming down the Big Sioux right now,” Schall said.

Rissler asked about black carp, another invasive species that Schall had noted. He said they’re difficult to document at this point, but it’s possible some have made their way into South Dakota.

“There aren’t any impediments to their movement,” Schall said. “They will continue to work their way up.” 

For related reading:

Past, Present and Future of Commercial Fishing in South Dakota

The Original Aquatic Invader

Carp: From Nuisance to Delicious