In the north, it’s the fight against the potential invasion of Asian carp, while in the south it’s a possible new plan that would improve fishing without implementing a restrictive marine reserve.
First, if you want to keep the dreaded Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, eat them! That’s a concept the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is promoting. That, in itself, deserves a shout out for being a clever idea.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything positive about the voracious bighead or silver carp. Experts fear these invasive species could wipe out native fish populations if they ever get into the Great Lakes. Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers updated its plan to keep the carp out through actions on Illinois’ Des Plaines River, part of the waterway linking the carp-infested Illinois River with Lake Michigan. It’s a $779 million control-strategy that includes updating an electric barrier already in place, installing a flushing lock to flush any organism back down the river, installing a sound barrier, and adding a bubble barrier.
Bighead and silver carp are large, slimy and have been known to jump into boats and injure occupants. They can weigh up to 100 pounds. So, while experts use technology to slow their spread, it may be that a long-standing epicurean method would work best. Just get people to dine on them, says Illinois DNR.
Bolstering the campaign is the fact that Asian carp are the most commonly eaten freshwater fish in the world! They are also easy to catch using rod or net. What American anglers need to recognize is the difference between the dark meat of common North American carp (which has a strong taste) and the flaky white meat of bighead or silver carp. Smoked, pan-fried, deep-fried, baked, steamed, grilled or even used as burgers, Asian carp are nutritious and can make for great fish fries. A celebrity chef like Emeril should come up with an Asian carp cookbook. Then watch them disappear.
Kudos to Illinois DNR for promoting a good idea.
Good but imperfect plan in the South
A possible new plan that would improve the condition of the Biscayne National Park’s fishery without implementing an objectionable marine reserve may be at hand. It should also be lauded by anglers and dealers alike, according to Gary Jennings at www.keepfloridafishing.org
In 2014, Biscayne National Park in southeast Florida released a management plan that many recreational anglers considered a “lock-out.” Despite a lack of scientific backing and state support, the park designated a large area as a marine reserve that would be closed to fishing.
There’s potentially good news on the horizon. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has worked with the park to develop This new plan is science-based, avoids closed zones and proposes park-specific aggregate bag and size limits to achieve the goal of increasing the abundance and average size of targeted species by 20 percent. The targeted species include angler favorites: snapper, grouper, hogfish, triggerfish, grunts, baitfish, stone crab and spiny lobster.
The proposal as it stands isn't perfect, which is why Jennings has put out a call for Florida anglers and dealers to become engaged in the process.
The draft proposal would require vessels transiting the park to adhere to its aggregate bag limits, regardless of where the targeted species were caught. Instead, anglers may need to urge FWC to consider allowing them to transit using bag and size limits from the areas where they caught their fish, rather than the more restrictive park limits. FWC is also looking for angler feedback on baitfish, crab and law enforcement needs to complete the potential new regulations for the park.
“While your support of the proposal is important, your input on the specifics is necessary, too,” Jennings emphasizes. “Depending on public feedback, FWC may adjust the proposed regulations before developing its rule.”
FWC will hold a series of public meetings next month before developing the regulations. Consider attending and lending support for the new plan. Unable to attend? You can make comments at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.
Meetings Dates and Addresses:
August 6: Coral Gables
Newman Alumni Center
University of Miami
6200 San Amaro Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
August 7: Florida City
404 W. Palm Drive
Florida City, FL 33034
August 8: Key Largo
Murray E. Nelson Government Center
102050 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 330
A link to the entire proposal can be found here.