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Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office – We Ain’t Afraid of No Carp!
Midwest Region, November 16, 2012
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Carterville FWCO staff members complete a DIDSON survey in the electrical fish barriers near Romeoville, Illinois.
Carterville FWCO staff members complete a DIDSON survey in the electrical fish barriers near Romeoville, Illinois. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Staff complete surveys at all times of the year to ensure the Great Lakes are Asian carp free.
Staff complete surveys at all times of the year to ensure the Great Lakes are Asian carp free. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Biologist Jeff Stewart motors away from a fyke net set in the Illinois River to monitor the presence of small Asian carp.
Biologist Jeff Stewart motors away from a fyke net set in the Illinois River to monitor the presence of small Asian carp. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Crews from the USFWS, USACE, and IDNR complete a rapid response in the waterways around Chicago to determine if Asian carp are present in the area.
Crews from the USFWS, USACE, and IDNR complete a rapid response in the waterways around Chicago to determine if Asian carp are present in the area. - Photo Credit: USFWS
John West of the Cartverville FWCO shows National Great Rivers Research and Education Center intern Lauren Richards how to distinguish the various species of small fishes caught along the Illinois River.
John West of the Cartverville FWCO shows National Great Rivers Research and Education Center intern Lauren Richards how to distinguish the various species of small fishes caught along the Illinois River. - Photo Credit: USFWS

Asian Carp. That about sums up the majority of the work done at the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO). While we do work on a variety of other projects, such as habitat, fish passage, and sport fish management, the majority of our office’s time is spent on these nuisance fishes.

Over the past couple of decades, Asian carps have moved up the Mississippi River Basin and are now threatening to enter the Great Lakes. The Carterville FWCO’s work aims to minimize the expansion and new introductions of Asian carp. While located in Marion, Illinois, much of this work requires some of the office’s 12 employees to travel throughout the state, particularly to the Upper Illinois River and the Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS). 

One project in which employees get to see much of the state is the “Distribution and Movements of Small Asian Carp in the Illinois Waterway” or the "Small Asian Carp Project" as it is known in the office. Led by biologist Jeff Stewart, the Small Asian Carp Project assess the presence and abundance of small, also known as young of the year, Asian carps in the Illinois River from the Peoria Lock and Dam near Peoria, Illinois to the Dresden Lock and Dam. Fish are collected through boat electrofishing and fyke nets, and all species collected are recorded. Any Asian carp collected which is believed to be a young of the year will be tagged.  Little is known about the early life history of Asian carps. This project hopes to provide a better understanding of where these small fishes are located and their movements.

The other main Asian carp project we work on is the “Evaluation of Fish Behavior at the Electric Dispersal in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.” This project, led by biologist Aaron Parker, is sometimes referred to as the "DIDSON" or "Caged Fish Project," and that is exactly what this project entails.  DIDSON and caged fishes. Using Dual Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON), staff from the Carterville FWCO and assisting offices observe wild fish behavior in and around the electrical fish barriers near Romeoville, Illinois. Fish (Gizzard shad) are also being transported across the electrical barriers via a cage attached to the side our boat to determine more precisely how the fish respond to different areas in and around the barrier. Information from these projects along with accompanying projects will help managers make better decisions regarding the dispersal barriers and other fishery management actions in the CAWS and Upper Illinois River.

Aside from taking the lead on the DIDSON, caged fish, and small Asian carp projects, the Carterville FWCO assists several other agencies in related Asian carp ventures. Our staff regularly helps to monitor the potential presence of carp in the CAWS by means of sampling water for eDNA and electrofishing fixed and random sites upstream of the electrical barrier. When carps are suspected to be present in the CAWS, the office aids our state, federal, academic, and private partners in rapid response actions. Staff also represents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service on various committees working to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. Assistant Project Leader Sam Finney is the Service's representative on the Monitoring and Rapid Response Work Group, and the Carterville FWCO also headed the drafting of the Management and Control Plan for Bighead, Black, Grass, and Silver Carps in the United States.

Ultimately, all of us at the Carterville FWCO would like to stop the spread of Asian carp allowing future generations to enjoy all the nation’s waterways without these pesky fishes.


Contact Info: Jennifer Johnson, 618-997-6869, jennifer_le_johnson@fws.gov



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