The world is the grass carp’s oyster

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

So now the grass carp has make its way into Lake Erie. Between April 30 and July 12, representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Toledo collected eggs from the Sandusky River that later were confirmed to be the eggs of grass carp.

The Sandusky River is a western Lake Erie tributary that flows into Sandusky Bay at the City of Sandusky.

Grass carp are believed to be present only in very low abundance in western Lake Erie. But from one little acorn a great oak grows. While shipping interests and fisheries interests argued over blocking access from the Illinois River into Lake Michigan, grass carp swam in. It was bound to happen in this land where competing interests debate shamelessly and accomplish very little.

To get to the Sandusky River from Lake Michigan, which first requires swimming the entire length of that lake, then going through the Straight of Mackinac, Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair, they had to pass by the larger Maumee River and the Portage River. Then, what is to say grass carp have not already moved farther east. It does seem to be almost certain.

Grass carp originated in the Amur River, a long Asian river, and other area rivers. They grow to 5 feet in length, and to a weight of 100 pounds. And they belong to the minnow family.

In addition to being a threat to the native plants and animals, grass carp are a threat to people. They have a habit of jumping helter skelter when a boat passes. Many people have been struck by these waterborne missiles. There have been rumors of people being killed by grass carp.

Grass carp are just another in what appears to be an assault on our native plants and animals by invaders from other parts of the world that will not end until everything is in all of the habitat where it can survive. Probably it is inevitable, but the thing about grass carp and several other exotic invaders is that they were invited here.

Grass carp were brought to North America to control grass in Southern fish farms. Of course there may have been some guarantee that the grass carp would be contained. But floods pay no attention to agreements between humans.

Grass carp made their way into the Mississippi River, then into the Illinois River and into Lake Michigan.

I will offer an alternative explanation for the spread of grass carp. Could it be that grass carp are being stocked by Bigfoot because they are a favorite food?

Obviously Bigfoot is expanding its range. No so long ago Bigfoot was believed to exist in the Himalayas and in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest, probably after crossing the Bering Land Bridge. It took a lot of spreading for them to get here on the Allegheny National Forest. Now when are grass carp going to show up in the Allegheny Reservoir?

With the help of Bigfoot or not, grass carp are in Warren County according to a U.S. Geological Survey map. One specimen was identified in the dredge pool at Starbrick, and between two and five were found at the Kinzua Dam Tailwaters. Another was found in French Creek, just above Meadville. Another at Ashtabula, Ohio. Multiple grass carp were found at Dunkirk. They have been found in Lake Ontario at Toronto, in the Niagara River and the Welland Canal.

Already this potentially harmful exotic fish is much more widespread that most people realize.

How damaging they will be to the native biological community remains to be seen. We have dealt with zebra mussels and quagga mussels. Round gobie may have displaced some native fish, but they have become the favorite forage of Lake Erie smallmouth bass. Rainbow smelt, alewife and shad allowed the big salmon boom in the Great Lakes to happen. Generally their numbers have come down. This did not seem to hurt the lake trout fishery or the walleye fishery.

But still, allowing exotic plants and animals to be brought into North America is beyond excuse. We should have very firm laws on this. But this still would not totally prevent the worldwide spread of plants and animals.

Habitat never has been stagnant. It has always been a work in progress. Every time a volcano erupted, with every large fire, every time a large space object hit the Earth, each time mankind invented new kinds of pollution, the environment changed.

As for Bigfoot, probably they do not get numerous enough anywhere to have a terrible effect on the environment.