Thousands of Asian carp dying in TN lakes; TWRA investigating

News release from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

NASHVILLE — Boaters may have noticed recently that there is a large number of fish dying along the shoreline throughout Kentucky and Barkley lakes, an occurrence that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is aware of and investigating.

The dead fish are silver carp, an invasive species that can negatively impact native fish and recreational boating. Because of these threats, the TWRA has been working to stem their expansion into new waters.

“While we are trying to learn how to slow or stop their expansion, the recent die-off of thousands of fish for whatever reason has occurred naturally,” noted Frank Fiss, Chief of TWRA’s Fish Division.

“We have collected samples of the dead fish and sent them to a lab to identify the cause of the disease. This type of analysis is not always conclusive, but we are trying to gather as much information as possible.”

Silver carp and bighead carp are among a family of invasive “Asian” carp that were imported to the USA in the early 1970s.  They escaped into the Mississippi River decades ago and have steadily spread into numerous bodies of waters, including rivers in Tennessee.

Growing numbers of carp are a threat to native species because Asian carp rely primarily on plankton as a food source, which is an also important source of food for native species, especially at smaller sizes.

Silver carp can also pose dangers to boaters as they often respond to motor vibration or noise by leaping as boats approach or pass through schooling fish that can weigh 30 to 40 pounds.

“Most of the dead fish that we have seen have been two years old but there are a lot of dead fish, and we are probably only seeing a tiny percentage of what actually inhabits the reservoir,” said Fiss.

“The widespread die off does not seem to be impacting other fish species, which is good news for game fish and anglers” said Fiss. “We appreciate all the reports we have received, and we want everyone to know we are aware of the die off and are monitoring it.”

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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