Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Best Efforts Net No Asian Carp
Midwest Region, October 19, 2010
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Gathering of boats at the Cargill Launch site . A collaborative sampling effort by the IDNR, USFWS, INHS and USACE to monitor Asian carp presence in the CSSC. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Gathering of boats at the Cargill Launch site . A collaborative sampling effort by the IDNR, USFWS, INHS and USACE to monitor Asian carp presence in the CSSC. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Representatives from numerous state and federal agencies converged on the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal (CSSC) October 19th-21st near Romeoville, IL.  This area is just downstream of the two electric barriers built to prevent fish passage between the CSSC and Lake Michigan.

Vic Santucci from the Aquatic Nuisance Species Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) sent out a call for crews to arrive with boats and gear to check the status of invasive Asian carp in this area. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was present with staff from LaCrosse Fish Health Center, Carterville-Marion Fishery Resource Office & Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (CFWCO). 

Also in attendance were folks from IDNR, Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

            Andy Starostka, Heather Calkins and Brett Witte from CFWCO arrived at the Cargill launch site just before 3pm on the 19th to a muted buzz of activity. Within an hour all boats were in the water and an informational/safety briefing was led by Santucci with additional comments from the USACE and USCG. With the exception of a Hanson Material tug boat loading barges with gravel and sand, the canal was effectively closed by a safety zone established by the USCG and enforced by Conservation Officers from the IDNR.

No other navigation would occur from 4-7pm the 19th and 20th and from 7am-12pm the 20th and 21st. After the briefing we divided up radios, identification flags and gear including trammel nets, experimental gill nets, mini-fyke nets and a purse seine. Electrofishing was also to take place. As Santucci put it, the goal was to saturate a two-mile stretch of the canal with sampling to determine if asian carp were present at that point in time. 

            The CFWCO boat motored upstream to a slip owned by Hanson Material. Within the slip, which cupped out from the canal like a miniature bay, the crew deployed five 200 feet monofilament trammel nets. Three of the nets had larger diameter float line allowing them to stay at the surface, hanging down 8 feet into the water, while the others fished the from bottom up 8 feet like the ones used on the Missouri River. Once the nets were all soaking, we returned to the launch site and applied more dollops of Germ-X. Water deemed “unfit for human contact” requires a certain degree of respect. 

            For each of the next two mornings, we checked our nets beginning at 7am. Common carp, buffalo species and freshwater drum were desired for tracking by the USACE as species with similar habits to asian carp. Numerous common carp of appropriate size (>1 lb) were caught in our nets and we returned several to the launch for tagging. The nets were re-set after removing fish and debris. They were checked and redeployed on the afternoon of the 20th and finally pulled for good after checking them on 21st. With the exception of a goldfish and a drum, common carp comprised the entirety of our catch. 

            The “saturation” of those two miles of the canal gave the USACE more common carp to track and will hopefully advance their understanding of how Asian carp would use the canal if they ever populate it. Otherwise, we achieved our goal of determining the presence/absence of Asian carp in the CSSC. As for now, they appear to be absent.

Contact Info: Heather Calkins, 573-445-5001 ext 29, heather_calkins@fws.gov
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