Leaping fish? Why Asian carp must be stopped

  • Article by: PAUL OLSON
  • Updated: July 31, 2013 - 7:24 PM

A Hitchcock-worthy cruise on the Illinois River shows why Minnesota must act before it’s too late.

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Asian carp in Memphis, Tenn.

Photo: Jim Weber, AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal

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Rep. Keith Ellison’s determination to stop the Asian carp from advancing beyond the lock and dam in downtown Minneapolis (“Quick action is needed to lock out carp,” July 30) is important but needs reinforcement. Here’s why:

Setting out on a trip to circumnavigate the eastern United States, my wife and I recently boated down the Mississippi River, turning toward Chicago via the Illinois River, which connects near St. Louis.

Immediately, we noticed fish jumping out of the water. We said something like “wow, isn’t that something” as we secured our boat for the night.

The next morning, our gee-wizz spectacle turned into the plot line for an Alfred Hitchcock film. Shades of “The Birds” — only this time it was “the fish.” Fish that could leap out of the water, 10 feet in the air.

Within the first two hours, 28 carp had landed on our trawler. If you are thinking that literally having fish jump into your boat is a joyful fishing experience, forget it. These lunkers deposited a slurry of slime, blood and excrement.

After wrestling each carp to a standstill, I had to pick up each flopping beast and throw it overboard — then clean up the mess before the flies descended.

This went on for several days.

By the time we got to Peoria, we began to see broader consequences. Locals said that just a few years ago, they could water ski on the river. Not now. Too dangerous. Getting hit by a carp could be serious.

Barges like the ones we see along the Mississippi’s banks are covered with decomposing carp. Marina docks are carp covered, too.

So boaters have left. The recreational boating businesses have vanished.

A new “sport” has taken over — shooting carp with bow and arrow.

One community sponsored a carp contest and harvested over 1,800 in a couple of hours.

Along the way we saw local natural resource workers. I asked: What are you learning? Succinct answer: This is no joke.

So Ellison and the others in Congress do indeed need to act quickly and smartly if Minnesota’s glorious rivers are to be protected.

By the time we had locked through the last dam on the Illinois River, my dear wife was in tears, vowing never to repeat this “trip of a lifetime.”

As we entered Lake Michigan, the water became a deep iridescence of clear blue. The carp lurk within a few miles of that lock, supposedly deterred by an electric mat.

Minneapolis has a lock and dam that was a politician’s boondoggle. It should never have been built. But today that guy could look like a genius.

Keep the dam lock locked.

______

Paul Olson, of St. Paul, is a retired foundation executive. He can be reached at pmolson27@gmail.com.

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