Low water levels in the James River have kept the Asian carp population in check, but it’s human intervention that can help protect other bodies of water from the invasive species.
Asian carp are a species of rough fish known for “flying” out of the water, usually in response to the running boat motor.
The presence of Asian carp in the James River has been well documented for years, said state Department of Game, Fish and Parks conservation officer Nick Cochran, who is based in Brown County.
“Unfortunately it’s kind of like a common carp; there’s not a great way to get rid of them. It’s just another fish that we have in our river system,” he said.
From about 2010 though 2012, Asian carp entered the James River when water levels rose above low dams.
In more recent years, the water levels on the river have receded, causing oxygen levels to drop, resulting in larger fish kills.
“I think it’s the fluctuation in the water levels that’s keeping (their numbers) down here. They really haven’t taken over the river,” Cochran said.
To prevent invasive species from entering any other water systems, there have been some changes made to the state’s fishing regulations.
“You can’t haul water from any lake stream or river. You can’t transport your minnows if you catch them out of a certain body of water. You can’t take any bait out of the James River,” Cochran said.
Asian carp are considered an invasive species because they are categorized as a filter-feeding fish.
“They’re a filter feeder, so they eat a lot of the stuff that younger fish will eat to survive,” Cochran said.
They also have big appetites, which leaves less food for the native fish that many people prefer catching and eating.
Fishing for the Asian carp is encouraged as long as anglers don’t leave them behind or throw dead carp back into the river.
“They’re a white meat, so I do know that we have people who will catch them and eat them,” Cochran said. “There are some who use (Asian carp) as fertilizer in their garden, but the one thing we don’t want them to do is discard them on the bank and ruin the fishing experience for others.”