Largest Asian carp die-off at Barkley Dam

A puzzling case of hundreds of thousands of dead Asian carp found floating in the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers has been eating at Fish and Wildlife experts.

The fish kill has claimed upward of a half million Asian carp in the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley dam and several other hundreds on the Tennessee river below Kentucky Dam.

On Friday, fisheries biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources scanned the waterways catching dead or dying carp to learn what might have caused the considerable die-off of invasive silver carp. Anglers were seeing dead fish a week ago or two ago. 

“It’s kind of a bell-shaped curve,” said Paul Rister, western fisheries district biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “You start seeing a few die, and a few more die, and then you reach the peak of the massive die-off. I think we’re on that downhill side now.”

Silver carp, which are not native to the United States, appear to be the only fish affected. 
“So you can rule out oxygen problems, chemical spills, anything like that that man might have done because more species would have been killed not just one,” says Rister

The cause has not been confirmed but possibilities include overstress from spawning or the presence of a pathogen that disrupts brain function in the fish. 

Fisheries biologists visited nearby Kentucky Lake dam Friday after receiving reports of dead Asian carp on the Tennessee River. After investigating the area, the cause of death of those fish is believed to be due to bow anglers and snaggers.

“You can see where the bow struck the fish,” says Rister. “There are more than I expected but that’s because most of the anglers leave them here. They can’t do that. They need to take them with and dispose of the properly.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has sent samples to biologists at Kentucky State University and Purdue University. They are hopeful researchers find something from this fish kill that leads to the eventual eradication of Asian carp.

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