1st capture of bighead carp in Minnesota River

Published 9:07 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

ST. PAUL — An Asian bighead carp has been caught in the Minnesota River for the first time, but that doesn’t mean the invasive species has established a permanent presence in the waterway that cuts across the state, the Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday.

The 25-pound male bighead carp was caught by a commercial angler near New Ulm last week, the DNR said in a statement. It’s the second time an invasive carp has been caught in the Minnesota River. A grass carp was caught in the same place in December.

“We have suspected that bighead carp have occasionally entered the Minnesota River from the Mississippi River, but this is the first confirmed capture,” said Nick Frohnauer, the DNR’s invasive fish coordinator. “This individual capture does not indicate reproduction or an established population of invasive carp in the Minnesota River.

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Invasive carp have been moving up the Mississippi River system since they escaped from southern fish farms in the 1970s. No breeding populations have been detected in Minnesota waters, but individual fish have been caught in the Mississippi, St. Croix and now the Minnesota rivers.

Bighead carp are one of three invasive carp species detected in Minnesota since the 1990s. Fisheries officials are concerned because they eat enormous amounts of plankton, crowding out native mussel and fish species and disrupting the aquatic food chain. The third is the silver carp, which are known for leaping high into the air when startled by passing boats.