The prospect of war with North Korea sometimes keeps me up at night.
It only takes a minute to rationalize there is nothing an old guy living in the woods can do about this situation. But by this time, the brain is wide awake.
For most of the year, thoughts about where to go hunting or fishing the next day brings peace and rapid return to sleep. But for the next few weeks, hunting opportunities are few and fishing is generally tough.
Being ripped from the arms of Morpheus and the incubus that is North Korea, counting sheep quickly morphs into counting fish. Last night, the fish were Asian carp—an invasive species.
A Google search reveals there are seven species of Asian carp that have found their way into American waters.
The common carp is not one of them. Common carp came from Asia initially, but they have been here since before Wisconsin achieved statehood.
A white paper done by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee indicates four of these seven species are considered a threat here in the Great Lakes basin—silver, bighead, grass and black carp.
Bighead carp have ruined the walleye and sauger fishery in the Illinois River, just a hundred miles south of Janesville. An electric barrier in Chicago is doing a fair job of keeping the Asian invasion of this species and silver carp out of Lake Michigan, where it is feared they could eventually enter just about any flowing water in the state.
The damage potential of these invasives to Wisconsin’s watery ecosystems is astronomical.
The pristine waters of Door County provide a chilling example of what could come to pass. A little fish called the goby and the thumb-sized zebra mussel have had a profound impact on the fishing here in just a dozen years—and not for the better.
Wisconsin’s stance regarding invasives is reasonable. Live bait can’t be transported away from the water. Livewell and bilge water must be left at the boat ramp by pulling the appropriate plugs. Weeds must be removed from the boat and trailer before you head down the road.
Unfortunately, invasive species regulations are not uniform in states that border Wisconsin. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Ann Runstrom recently sent me a report compiled by the Sea Grant Law Center that was published last month comparing AIS (aquatic invasive species) laws across the United States.
In Wisconsin, if your bilge and livewells are drained and the boat and trailer are free of weeds, you’re free to travel down the road. Should you decide to travel west and fish a lake in Minnesota, the drain plug must be removed.
Last summer, Minnesota game warden J. Fogarty stopped me just prior to launching my boat at a secluded ramp on the west side of the Mississippi River. He observed my drain plug was not removed as I started to back down the boat ramp.
I explained Wisconsin rules to him. He replied ‘this is not Wisconsin!’, as he removed my drain plug with a theatrical pull. Dust ran out all over his boots.
Didn’t matter. I got a $135 ticket. The ticket had to be paid before I could launch the boat in Minnesota again. Prior to paying the ticket I had to successfully complete an on-line AIS test.
While taking this test, I learned nightcrawlers are considered an invasive species in Minnesota. Return to the boat ramp with a nice mess of bluegills and throw your remaining two dew worms in the grass and YOU’RE BUSTED.
Common sense and discretion are not included in Minnesota vernacular.
Eyelids are finally getting heavy. Not enough space remains to tell you about white Amur, a.k.a “grass carp”, one of the four Asian invaders seen as harmful in Wisconsin. Multiple reports of this invasive have been filed over the years, most from the Milwaukee area.
But there are reports from Dane County and Sauk County too.
The federal USDA is a good source of information on white Amur.
Did you know the USDA actually provides these grass carp for stocking to control pond weeds in Illinois and Iowa? Some of these ponds are prone to overflow, running eventually into the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.
I contacted Tim Yager, USFWS assistant manager for the Upper Mississippi Fish & Wildlife Refuge, at their headquarters in Winona, Minnesota.
Yager told me these white Amur are “triploid, therefore they can’t reproduce—and even if they DID reproduce, their offspring could not reproduce.”
I found this statement troubling.
I phoned FWS biologist Runstrom and was told these Amur were diploid—not triploid—and they could reproduce. Runstrom also said Amur have turned up in fisheries surveys on the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers in Grant and Crawford counties.
Suddenly, Kim Jung Un doesn’t seem like much of a threat.