1 Fish, 2 Fish, Flying Fish, Nuisance Fish

By Chad Tussing, Director of The Outdoor Campus-West

Last week, while attending a staff conference in Yankton, I had the opportunity to participate in a new experience… going on a flying carp tour. No, this isn’t like snipe hunting (which is a real hunting season, by the way). GFP fisheries biologists took us out to see firsthand the phenomena of Asian carp, aka the flying carp. For reasons not fully understood, these fish become agitated by the sound/vibrations from boat motors and leap into the air.

And sometimes into boats.

Photo by Sam Stukel
Photo by Sam Stukel

There are two species of Asian carp of current concern in South Dakota, the silver carp and bighead carp. Neither are native to North America. They were originally used in the deep south to keep aquaculture ponds clean, but escaped during a flood. They have since spread throughout the Mississippi River system, including the Missouri River up to Gavin’s Point Dam (and nearby tributary streams such as the James River).

One of the reasons these fish cause a great deal of worry to fisheries biologists is their voracious feeding habits. Both feed on the microscopic plants and animals found naturally in rivers and lakes. The carp are very efficient feeders and are also very fertile, reproducing by the thousands and growing quickly. In the Illinois River, one of the main hot spots for Asian carp in the US, an estimated 90% of the biomass in the river is Asian carp. An estimated $16 million per year is spent to maintain an electric barrier to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes via a channel constructed to connect the Great Lakes and Mississippi shipping routes.

Introduced species often become nuisances quickly and populations explode when removed from their natural predators and controls. Prevention of the spread of these nuisance species is the best way to control their spread as it is virtually impossible to remove the animal or plant once it has become established. That’s why many states, including South Dakota, have rules and laws in place to prevent the spread of nuisance species. Some easy practices at home can help in the fight against these unwanted creatures:


• Remove aquatic plants and animals before leaving any waterbody.

• Drain water from bait bucket, live well, bilge and motor before leaving any waterbody.

• Dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and worms in the trash.

• Spray/wash boat, trailer, and equipment with high pressure hot water on your way home or at home –Or dry everything for at least 5 days.

• Always report questionable species.


Never release live animals or plants – this includes all aquarium species, bait, pets or water garden plants. Do not release these into the wild. If you cannot find another home for animals, dispose of them in a trash can or bury them. Seal plants in plastic bags and dispose.

If we all do our part, we can help keep these nuisances from ruining the fisheries and habitats throughout the state.

For more information about these flying nuisances, check out the GFP web page:


Photo by Sam Stukel
Photo by Sam Stukel

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