Prior to the 2019 field season, Region 3 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCO) were asked to assist with Asian carp work being conducted within the Illinois River. Great Lakes crews from Alpena, Michigan, Ashland and Green Bay, Wisconsin, along with Large River crews from Columbia, Missouri and La Crosse, Wisconsin, all worked together to complete electrofishing, as well as, hoop and mini-fyke net surveys throughout the field season. The surveys followed the Long Term Research and Monitoring (LTRM) protocol that has been a successful model for collecting fish community data in large Midwestern rivers for nearly 30 years. This LTRM sampling effort is used to better understand the impacts of invasive species on native fish communities, to help inform hydroacoustic surveys, to evaluate contracted commercial harvest of Asian carp, and to detect young-of year Asian carp.
This unique opportunity brought together field staff that normally wouldn’t interact. New friendships were forged, new skills learned, and staff received a first-hand look at the conditions at “ground zero” in the battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. For many Great Lakes personnel, this was their first time actually seeing invasive Silver and Bighead Carp in the wild. Watching them jump behind the boat and boil from the water when electrofishing put the threat these fish pose to our Great Lakes into perspective, and galvanized our efforts to keep them from gaining a foothold in Lake Michigan and beyond. Crews traveled long distances and worked long days in the heat and humidity while dodging flying carp. Through the teamwork and the dedication of FWCO personnel, the sampling was completed safely, correctly, and on time. Thanks to all!
By Wes Bouska, La Crosse FWCO