Zapping the invasive carp population

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There aren’t many better ways to enjoy a holiday weekend than at the lake. Now imagine boating, swimming, kayaking, and all the other things you do with your family disappearing — thanks to something threatening to destroy the lakes you love.

Invasive species are making their way into local bodies of water. Recently Sioux Falls confirmed finding Asian Carp in the Big Sioux River. This isn’t a new problem for the Okoboji area. Years ago, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources showed us how it’s keeping the fish out of the Iowa Great Lakes.

Peter Isais left the mountains of Colorado behind so he can climb into a boat.

“I love to go fishing with my dad. There are some good fishing spots out here,” Isais said.

Isais and his family usually visit the Okoboji area this time of year for some time on the water together.

“It’s just a really good place to get family boating. Do some family events,” Isais said.

Okoboji welcomes thousands of people during the summer tourist season, and it’s quite busy during the Fourth of July. As much as the area loves visitors, some just aren’t welcome.

“We knew the doorway was open, and so, we knew we had populations that were growing in the Missouri River and those fish could make their way up the Little Sioux drainage and into the lakes of Iowa,” Mike Hawkins, district fisheries biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said.

Asian Carp have threatened the Iowa Great Lakes for years. This spillway in Milford, Iowa, is the gateway to the waters thousands of boaters, jet-skiers and anglers enjoy every year.

“We want to make sure we closed that door for those fish, not let any additional fish in to make sure they wouldn’t become ecologically damaging,” Hawkins said.

That’s why the Iowa Department of Natural Resources installed this electric barrier about seven years ago. It’s kind of like an electric fence to keep the unwanted fish out.

“It is a high voltage shock, a higher voltage shock. It would be very uncomfortable, but it’s not designed to be harmful to humans,” Hawkins said.

You can see the fish hanging out near the barrier, or jumping out of the water when they get too close..and get a non-fatal zap.

“Proof is in the pudding,” Hawkins said.

According to the National Park Service, Asian carp seriously damage native fish populations in lakes and rivers. Once they infest waters, they battle the fish that already live there for food and space. They essentially push out the native species and kill other organisms that are already there.

“The thing with the carp is, they’ll just go and pretty much eat anything in their way,” Isais said.

They jump out of the water at very high speeds and can hurt boaters, kayakers, or anyone on the water. They can also damage equipment.

Hawkins says that’s why the community, states of Iowa and Minnesota spent more than $1-million on this barrier. So far, he says it seems to be working and keeping them out of the lakes.

“As far as we can tell, as far as our sampling indicates, we haven’t seen any natural reproduction in the lake system,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins says some have slipped by, but says just a few aren’t a big problem and it would be much worse without the barrier.

“Really our goal here is to not allow that population to grow. Once these fish enter the lake system, they’re very long lived. They can live up to 30 to 35 years,” Hawkins said.

“It is a benefit for the lake and keeping it healthy,” Isais said.

Isais is glad the community is protecting the Iowa Great Lakes, so he can climb into his boat and coast through the rest of his vacation.

“Hopefully we’re going to have a good day and catch some pan fish,” Isais said.

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