Fishing Is it Too Late to Save the Great Lakes? By Alex Robinson | Published Aug 9, 2010 11:45 PM Fishing Aerial bowfishing has become popular in Illinois and Missouri. Some people even run an outfitting service for the sport. Photo by: Bill Konway. SHARE Two months ago this 19-pound bighead Asian carp was found in Lake Calumet in Illinois. The lake is only six miles from Lake Michigan located along the waterway that connects the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Electric barriers were set up along this waterway to stop carp from getting into the Great Lakes and stretches were also poisoned. But somehow, it seems the fish either made it past the barriers or was transplanted in the lake by people. In hopes of stopping the invasion, five Great Lakes states have sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago water authority for not closing the locks and damns on the waterway that connects the Mississippi and Lake Michigan. Two similar lawsuits were thrown out by the Supreme Court this year, but this was before a carp was found so close to the Great Lakes. Closing the locks would stop more fish from reaching Lake Michigan, but it would also hurt the local shipping economy. Photo by: Erulez So what’s on the line? Asian carp could destroy the Great Lakes’ $7-billion-per-year fishery, hurting both commercial and recreational anglers. Photo by Frasar Carins Governors from the Great Lakes states have also urged the president to force quicker federal action. “The threat of an invasive species reaching the Great Lakes is growing by the day, while the window of opportunity to keep Asian carp out of our lakes is closing rapidly … There is too much on the line — both ecologically and economically — to continue the ‘study and monitor’ status quo. This is the time for bold, decisive action, which is why we are asking for an aggressive timeline to begin building physical, permanent barriers,” Ohio Governor Ted Strickland wrote to Barack Obama. President Obama has pitched a $78.5 million strategy to save the Great Lakes, but the plan basically consists of using the methods that are already in place to stop the carp. Many people believe these methods are not feasible and some worry that Obama (a former Illinois senator) is favoring old friends in Chicago by not shutting down the locks and dams. Photo by: Great Lakes Fisheries Commission Carp were also found making there way into Lake Erie through the Wabash River in Ohio. These fish made it past the electrical barriers that were suppose to stop them from swimming that far upstream. Photo by: Kmusser Asian carp are lethal to a fishery because they essentially wipe out the bottom of the food chain. They eat plankton and other small organisms that trout and walleye rely on when they are fry. They grow up to 100 pounds and can eat up to 40 percent of their body weight in one day. Photo by: Great Lakes Fisheries Commission They also reproduce extremely quickly, which helps them overrun native species. Photo by: Great Lakes Fisheries Commission There are two species of carp at the root of the problem: bighead carp and silver carp. They were introduced in the U.S. in the 1970s to control algal growth at fish ponds in the south. When the fish farms flooded, some of the Asian carp escaped into the Mississippi River and they have been making their way north ever since. Photo by: Great Lakes Fisheries Commission Silver carp are known for jumping out of the water at the sound of a boat engine. This trait has inspired outdoorsmen to create a new sport called aerial bowfishing, where you drive around in a boat, wait until carp jump out of the water, and then shoot them with your bow. Photo by: World hunting group But it’s a risky sport. The high-flying carp are also infamous for taking out boaters. They can break bones and even knock boaters unconscious. Photo by: Bill Konway with Chris Brackett Outdoors. Aerial bowfishing has become popular in Illinois and Missouri. Some people even run an outfitting service for the sport. Photo by: Bill Konway Outdoorsmen have also taken to netting the carp out of midair in “Redneck Fishing tournaments.” These tournaments are pretty much what they sound like. Photo by: Redneck village Some people are even trying to eat the Asian carp, marketing them as fine dining. China is buying millions of pounds of processed carp from commercial fishermen in Illinois for human consumption. Photo by: Louisiana State University Whether it’s done through legislation, with a bow or with a net, it’s going to take a combined effort to stop Asian carp from taking over the Great Lakes. To see more photos of aerial bowfishing click here to go to Bill Konway’s website. Alex Robinson Alex Robinson is Outdoor Life’s editor-in-chief. He oversees an ace team of writers, photographers, and editors who are scattered across the continent and cover everything from backcountry sheep hunting to trail running.