iTeam: Cashing in on carp
If you want an idea of just how explosive the population is of Asian Carp in Kentucky’s waterways, go out with a commercial carp fisherman.
Colton Johnson, of Illinois, has been netting carp, mostly Silver Carp, for a few years now.
The night we went out with him, he and his crew hauled in about 8,000 pounds, and that was apparently nothing for the week.
“We’ve caught less today than we have any other day, and we fished three other days this week,” Johnson said. “It’ll put us over 35,000 pounds this week.”
Johnson uses a 400-yard net, but when you think about it, that traps carp in a minuscule area compared with the Ohio River which stretches for almost a thousand miles.
“We’re just scratching the surface, if we’re doing that, we’d come back here tomorrow and catch this many, if not more, same spot.”
Silver Carp and other Asian Carp are out-eating and out-spawning native fish, threatening not only habitat but also boaters.
Weighing in at an average of 20 pounds, they fly around when boats and water skiers whiz by, slamming into heads and breaking bones.
“Heck, I’ve got hit one time…got me right in the eye going about 30 miles an hour,” Johnson recalled. “It about knocked me out of the boat.”
Johnson is a contracted fisherman with Two Rivers Fisheries in Wickliffe.
The carp processing plant has been doubling the number of pounds for human consumption from year to year since 2013.
“Our target (this year) is four million (pounds),” Angie Yu, Two Rivers Fisheries owner, said. “We remain the biggest Asian Carp exporter in the country.”
Yu says Americans may not have the stomach yet for carp, but there’s a huge appetite overseas.
She exports to 11 countries in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Carp were imported in the 1970’s as a natural way to control algae blooms at catfish farms in Arkansas, but of course, they got out and are thriving now.
So the irony is the import and is now being exported back to where they came from.
“China, for carp, is for everybody’s meal,” Yu pointed out.
Her business is thriving and growing, and it’s trying to take the good with the bad.
“We lower the Asian Carp population,” Yu said. “But I don’t think we can get rid of them.”