Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials say the commercial fishing competition was the first-ever to be aimed at Asian carp, which breed rapidly and have spread through the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
The final two-day total of 82,953 pounds was short of a 200,000-pound goal, but state officials considered it a success on many fronts, said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini.
“It validated some of the things we had thought, that good skilled fisherman can come in there and take out 10,000 pounds a day, all you have to do is create a market,” Marraccinni said on Thursday. The fish can be harvested to produce fertilizers, pet foods and fish oil products, he said. They are also edible.
State officials are concerned about the rapid spread of the fish in Barkley and Kentucky lakes. The carp breed faster than some native species and eat up the algae and zooplankton that other fish depend on.
The Asian carp infiltrated the Mississippi River in the 1970s after getting loose from fish farms. Federal officials, worried about the species reaching the Great Lakes, are conducting a study to investigate how Asian carp DNA got into rivers and canals in the Chicago area.
Ron Brooks, Kentucky’s fisheries director, said one species of the problem fish, the silver carp, is prone to leaping out of the water when agitated by boat noise, which can injure boaters and skiers.
Brooks said state officials will make tweaks to the next tournament to attract more fishing teams.
The two-day tournament winner was Barry Mann of Gilbertsville. His team hauled in 28,669 pounds and won a top prize of $10,000. The commercial teams used nets since the carp don’t bite on baited hooks. More than 20 teams signed up but just 11 teams brought in fish for weighing, Marraccinni said.
The removed carp were taken to a processing plant in Mississippi, where they will be harvested for fish oils and used in pet foods, Marraccini said.