Friday, July 15, 2005

ENV: Invading Texas

A potential new world record, a first for the state, and a big no-no -- a species of carp, probably one of the Silver Carps was taken in east Texas. Fellow turtle and mollusc guy, and TPWD invasives specialist, Robert Howells from right down the road here made the call . . .

Something fishy
Denison angler reels in prohibited 70-pound silver carp
By Vicki Graves, Herald Democrat

It's never good when a species ends up out of its own environment and Michael Jones, of Denison, did his part to get one intruder out of local waters. Fishing Sunday from the bank below the Denison Dam, he caught what experts say is a world record, but prohibited, silver carp.
After battling it more than an hour, he still had no idea what he had on his line, except it was a fighting machine, Jones said.

"I thought I knew all kinds of fish, but I'd never seen one like this before. I was worn out because he made 18 runs. Every time I had him to the bank, he'd shoot right back off into the river. He was hung in the back fin, but their skin is tough."

Jones weighed the 70-pounder on his home scales, he said. Those who saw it first, called it a Chinese fighting fish or a bighead carp. Wildlife Specialist Cliff Moore of Van Alstyne said it looked like a great big shad.

"It's a plankton eater and doesn't have a tooth one," Moore said. "But it's not a good thing to have it in the lake. Plankton being the lowest level of our food chain in our water systems, it would directly compete with every small fish we have."

This type fish originally was brought into the catfish farming world to help control the plankton in a catfish farm, Moore said.

"Catfish farms feed every day, get an algae bloom because all the nutrients are in the water, and need to get something that eats the stuff the catfish don't eat," Moore said. "Then, later on, a flood comes and off into the native river systems the carp go. That's how invasive species take over."

"All I know is that it fights for about an hour and 15 minutes," Jones told people gathered at the back of his pickup to see the fish.

Thinking he might have hooked the world's biggest catfish, he fought and finally brought it ashore. "That one right there fought way harder than any catfish," he said.

He decided not to throw it back because he'd never seen one before. Then he took it to Moore to try to find out the name of the species. "They say these things can get to a weight of 400 pounds, so that's pretty huge," Jones said.

His buddies Adam Riggs, Donnie Shrum, Charles Shrum and Randy Watson had a good day of fishing together Sunday. They brought in one catfish that weighed 50 pounds, two that weighed 30 pounds and several smaller catfish.

But with all that help on the ground, Jones drug in the big carp by himself. "Nobody could give me a break because then, if you've got a world record and somebody else has touched the pole, nobody gets the credit for catching it. Plus, it's just the fun of one-on-one. If the fish wins, oh well. I'm still going to have fun."

When he got the fish sideways on the bank, Donnie Shrum grabbed it by the mouth, Jones said.

Biologist Allen Forshage with the Texas Fresh Water Fishery Center in Athens, studied a photo of the fish and verified that it's some kind of carp, a species prohibited because it eats plants.

"Carp are Chinese fish that have been brought here to control vegetation. They might have been on the watershed on the Red River or it could have come in from Oklahoma. But this organism is listed on our potential harmful list and no person may import, possess or sell it," he said. "You can catch prohibited fish, but you have to kill them. I'll bet this will be a world record."

Forshage contacted Bob Howells in Kerrville, the Texas Fresh Water Fishery Center's expert on exotic fish, who also saw pictures of Jones' catch. He said it had to be one of three species - bighead carp, silver carp or bigscale silver carp, which [was] only recently split from silver carp as a distinct species.

The world record bighead carp is 40.8 kg from Lake Kirby, Texas and there are no records of silver carp in Texas waters.

"This fish appears to be a silver carp and if taken in Texas waters, it is the first record of the species here," Howells said.

Bighead and silver carp are prohibited exotic species. In order to manage and conserve natural resources, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department must protect state waters against the introduction of non-native aquatic species. Fish, shellfish and aquatic plants that are not native to Texas may compete with native animals and plants for food and space.

All species and hybrids of species of carps are legally classified as exotic, harmful, or potentially harmful. No person may import, possess, sell, or place them into water of this state except as authorized by rule or permit issued by the department.

Jones never considered letting the fish stay in the water, he said.


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