Bighead and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis & H. molitrix)

Photos of bighead carp and silver carp.
Bighead carp above, silver carp below.

Photo of silver carp jumping out of the water.
Silver carp jumping out of the water.

Species and Origin: Large filter feeding fish that can weigh up to 110 pounds for bighead carp and 60 pounds for silver carp. Both species have low-set eyes below the mouth and large upturned mouths without barbels. Imported from China in the 1970s for use in aquaculture ponds to control plankton. By the early 1980s, both species had escaped into open waters in southern states. See USGS United States distribution map for bighead carp or silver carp This link leads to an external site..

Impacts: They eat huge amounts of plankton and detritus. Because they feed on plankton, these fish compete for food with native organisms including mussels, larval fishes, and some adult fish such as paddlefish. This competition for food could result in fewer and smaller sport fish. Silver carp can jump up to 10 feet out of the water when disturbed by sounds of watercraft. They often jump into boats and can injure boaters, personal watercraft operators, and water skiers.

Status: No established populations of bighead or silver carp are known to be in Minnesota. However, individual invasive carp have been caught by commercial fisherman over the last several years.  One bighead carp was caught in the St. Croix River in 1996 and in 2011.  Between 2003-2009, a total of six bighead carp have been caught in the Mississippi river between Lake Pepin and the Iowa border. Three silver carp (two in pool 8, one in pool 9) have been caught between 2008 and 2011.  Populations of bighead and Silver carp are established in the Mississippi River and its tributaries downstream of pool 12 in Iowa.

Means of spread: The juveniles are difficult to distinguish from gizzard shad and other native baitfish, so they could be spread through use or release of live bait.

Where to look: They often feed in schools at the water's surface and silvers jump when disturbed by boats.

Regulatory Classification: It is a prohibited invasive species (DNR), which means import, possession, transport, and introduction into the wild is prohibited.

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