AFTON, Minn. (WCCO) — On a beautiful sun-splashed stretch of the St. Croix River, the search is on for an ugly and dangerous invader. Somewhat like looking for a needle in a haystack, finding evidence of Asian carp isn’t easy.
It’s an attempt to find the most prolific fish in the Asian carp family, the leaping silver carp. They’re the fish making quite a splash on YouTube videos, with spectacular scenes showing hundreds of carp leaping high over the water.
“We’ve got fish that are potentially here in these waters,” said DNR fisheries specialist Joel Stiras.
He’s among the team of DNR workers combing the St. Croix with dip nets and electro-shocking boats.
Recent water tests of the St. Croix, between Prescott, Wisconsin and St. Croix Falls found evidence of the carp’s DNA. To prove that the southern invader has already migrated this far north, the DNR will need to find live carp.
After three days of searching, pulling up nets and examining native game fish they’re finding nothing out of the ordinary.
Shane McBride is a fisheries specialist working one of the electro-shocking boats.
“Basically, just finding native fish, what we’d expect to find if there was no such thing as Asian carp. We’re finding a nice healthy balance of native fish right now,” he said.
The news is bittersweet to those looking for hard evidence. While it’s good the Asian carp are not infesting these waters in large numbers, it will only add to the mystery and suspense as they strive to explain the positive environmental DNA samples.
“You’re adding another mouth to feed,” Stiras said, when asked why the carp pose such a major threat.
They are voracious filter feeders and essentially strip the waters bare of the tiny organisms that native aquatic species rely on.
Not only do they starve out our native fish, the Asian carp are a serious threat to boating safety. They shoot like rockets from the water with every passing motorboat.
So beyond this round of electro-shocking, commercial netters will be brought in to increase the odds. Searching for something everyone prays they won’t find.
“These fish can get pretty big and silver carp are pretty jumpy and jump out of the water and hit people, hurt ’em pretty good,” Stiras said. “Not something we want.”