MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Researchers with the Department of Natural Resources turned to the Asian carp’s cousin Wednesday in a quest to see if the invasive fish can breach our locks and dams.

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Just downstream of Ford Parkway, a team of DNR biologists set out by boat on the Mississippi River. They were on a high tech mission to track the movement of fish — big mouth buffalo, freshwater drum, white bass and common carp.

But it was the common carp that could answer a troubling question: How likely are the destructive Asian carp to migrate upriver, through locks and dams?

“They’re a good surrogate species, they kind of behave the same way,” said Joel Stiras, a DNR fisheries biologist. “When we find Asian carp, we find them associating with buffalo, and we find them associating with common carp, schooling up.”

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To find out if the Asian carp can move upstream, Stiras and other DNR researchers had to perform surgery. They cut into the bellies of fish and inserted radio transmitters. After a few stitches, the fish were then released back into the river.

Along the river, the DNR has placed 50  receivers. When the transmitter-filled fish move past these receivers, they ping, alerting researchers to their location.

If a fish is caught by an angler, an orange tag on the fish will ask the angler to release it, or at least turn over the transmitter.

“We’re going to learn a lot about where these fish go… if they make upstream spawning runs, if they are locking through,” Stiras said.

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The tracking technology used Wednesday is the same as that which is being used to follow Asian carp down south. So if those fish begin migrating up the Mississippi, the sonar receivers deployed on Wednesday will pick up their presence, too.