On Friday, Jan. 10, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials received a report that a silver carp, an invasive Asian species, was caught on Chickamauga Lake in October.
The fisherman who caught the specimen, angler Dustin Hinkle, reported that the fish "jumped into the boat as I deployed my trolling motor." Hinkle also said he "saw 15 to 20 more fish near the surface” exhibiting a feeding behavior.
State wildlife authorities believe these fish traveled up the Tennessee River through navigation locks, eventually finding their way to Chickamauga Lake. “This new observation demonstrates the urgency of the issue,” said Frank Fiss, Fisheries chief for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
In May 2018, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a $500,000 budget request to provide incentives for commercial targeting of Asian carp in Kentucky, Barkley, Cheatham and Old Hickory lakes.
Part of the funds established the Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program on Sept. 18, 2018. According to Tennessee Wildlife Resources, three wholesale fish dealers and 15 commercial fishermen are enrolled in the program and receive incentives to harvest and sell the invasive species. The program has incentivized the removal of at least 2.8 million pounds of Asian carp from the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.
Silver Asian carp "compete for food and space with our native species," according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "In addition, when silver carp are startled they have a tendency to leap out of the water and can jump as high as eight feet. Therefore, they are even more problematic because of the potential to injure boaters, jet skiers, and water skiers. Silver carp can grow as large as 60 pounds. In the Tennessee River, Silver carp are most abundant in Kentucky Reservoir, with an emerging population in Pickwick Reservoir as well."
The invasion of Asian carp in central-U.S. waterways has become a widespread concern, with a national effort to manage them, prevent their spread and target them with unlimited quotas.
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“This is an excellent reminder to report carp sightings from East Tennessee, where carp are not already known to be established," said Cole Harty, Aquatic Nuisance Species coordinator for the state agency. "We encourage anyone reporting to include photos, location information, and if possible keep a fish frozen to share with TWRA.”
Reports of Asian carp in Tennessee can be made by phone at 731-423-5725 or toll-free at 800-372-3928; by fax at 731-423-6483; or by email at [email protected]
“No additional reports have been made since this occurrence,” Harty added.