The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s newly formed carp removal team removed roughly 320 pounds of invasive carp from the White River in its first day of netting.
Jimmy Barnett, Game and Fish invasive carp biologist, is extremely happy with the results and looks forward to improving upon that mark as the team hones its skills on the river.
“My goal for the team is to remove at least 250,000 pounds of invasive carp per year,” Barnett said. “We have a long way to go, but every day will get us closer to that goal.”
The carp removal team currently has three full-time members devoted to the effort. Game and Fish wants to fill two additional positions. Barnett hopes to have two boats outfitted and running commercial nets daily to fight the spread of black, silver, bighead and grass carp in Arkansas’s rivers.
“We’re focused on the White River right now and will work on it until it reaches flood stage, then we’ll shift our efforts to the Arkansas River,” Barnett said. “We want to make the best use of daily conditions. Right now the White is low enough to get some work done.”
The team will be headquartered in Hazen at Mike Freeze Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area. Game and Fish wildlife management division worked with the fisheries division to make room for the additional equipment at the workshop so the staff would have a home base at the center of the two river basins in which they will work.
“Our efforts will cover the White River from Batesville to the Mississippi River and the Arkansas River from Dardanelle to the Mississippi,” Barnett said. “Wattensaw is the perfect base to work from.”
The new effort by the Game and Fish was made possible by funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Four grants totaling $1.2 million were received by Game and Fish, including a portion directly attributed to removal of invasive carp species.
The process to remove invasive carp from Arkansas’s waterways is long and tedious. Staff set gill nets and monitor them throughout the day, removing the targeted species and releasing any native fish that get caught.
“We’re using a large mesh size that will target the larger carp and allow most native species to swim through,” Barnett said. “That and the constant monitoring of the nets will let us carry out our removal efforts with as little impact to native species as possible. The goal is to have no nets go unattended for longer than 12 hours.”
The removal effort is only one portion of the efforts fueled by the federal grants. A significant portion of the funding will be used to help gather data and research on the effectiveness of removal efforts in the lower Mississippi River basin, as well as biological information on the population characteristics and movement of invasive carps.