WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A story which is making national news has spurred what looks like a horror film, with Internet websites showing hundreds of fish flying through the air. But just how bad is the Asian carp invasion in the Lafayette area?
According to fishermen, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers, and one Purdue researcher, these fish are already swimming in the Wabash River and other waters, and their population appears to be on the rise.
Asian carp were first brought to the southern United States back in the 1970s to clean catfish farms, and they have made their way north through the Mississippi River basin.
Purdue Assistant Professor of Aquatic Ecology Reuben Goforth said these fish are a viable threat.
"The numbers appear to be increasing. We haven't done sampling to verify that, but that's what it looks like," Goforth said.
Goforth has spent the last two years researching different fish in the Wabash, and said there are two particular kinds of Asian carp to be aware of.
"The two most common of those are the silver carp and the bighead carp, and those are the ones that are most widely spread at this point," Goforth said.
He said the silver carp are the usual suspects in the aerial displays seen on video.
"They're the ones that are responsible for the documented cases of broken noses and broken arms and concussions and that kind of thing, whereas the bighead carp tend to stay in the water," Goforth said.
DNR Conservation Officer Matt Tholen can attest to the danger of boating in waters with fish that can grow very large and jump very high.
"I've had one in my boat that weighed over 20 pounds, so really they're a recreational hazard too for the recreational boater that uses the Wabash River," Tholen said.
Many fishermen like Jim Payne from Buck Creek believe their personal safety is not the only danger these invaders pose to the rivers or streams they enter.
"The concern is what it is going to do to the resident fish. You know, 'What are they going to do to their habitat?' is what I'm worried about," Payne said while fishing a stretch of the Wabash near West Lafayette, Indiana.
Goforth and many others are working to answer that question.
Check back tomorrow to learn more about the threat asian carp pose to our local ecosystem.
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