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September 22, 2014

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Bottom feeders muscling other species out of way

Invasive carp not content to just swim in the mud; they’re destroying other fish habitats

Image

Sam Morris

Carp go on a feeding frenzy for a tourist’s popcorn next to the docks of the Lake Mead Marina.

Catching carp

Carp fishing is common in Europe and is growing in popularity in the United States. According to carp-usa.info, the fish are attracted to whole-kernel sweet corn, both thrown into the water as chum and on the end of a small hook.

For more

For more information on the Carp Rodeo, log on to getoutdoorsnevada.org. One-day fishing permits are available at the Nevada Department of Wildlife licensing webpage here.

Carp

Carp go on a feeding frenzy for a tourist's popcorn next to the docks of the Lake Mead Marina.  Launch slideshow »

In the depths of Nevada’s streams and reservoirs lies a voracious bully of a fish bent on becoming king of the bottom feeders.

Carp — ugly brown fish from Europe and Asia that can grow to more than three feet long and 35 pounds in Nevada waters — are eating most of the food and damaging the nesting habitat for native fish and birds in waters across the state.

By some estimates, tens of thousands of this invasive species have made Nevada home.

State and federal wildlife managers want to bring that number to zero, and this summer they’re asking the public for help.

The fish “eat whatever is available to them. They’re opportunists,” said Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex Manager Cynthia Martinez. “They tend to compete with native fish and even waterfowl for food availability, and they’re very aggressive in pushing out other species.”

Among those fish getting pushed around is the Pahranagat round tail chub, an endangered species that is native to the upper stretches of Pahranagat Creek in Lincoln County.

This greenish-yellow, black-splotched fish is among the most endangered in the state. It’s threatened most by development and irrigation in the area, but also by the carp’s constant scavenging, which muddies the water and impedes chub breeding. And carp regularly prey upon chub babies, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After being planted in Pahranagat-area irrigation canals decades ago to clear the waterways of aquatic detritus, the carp made their way into the Pahranagat Lake reservoir and eventually began making their way up the Pahranagat Creek to chub habitat.

Wildlife managers there are working to reduce the population of carp.

The best way to do that is with line and pole.

This is where the public comes in. Rather than pay staff to fish all day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Wildlife Division will host a party — a Carp Rodeo, in fact — at the Upper Pahranagat Lake campground July 17.

Inexperienced anglers are encouraged to make the hour-and-a-half drive from Las Vegas to the campground, where staff can supply reel and tackle if needed and offer basic fishing lessons. The state Division of Wildlife is offering a single-day fishing license for the event. A license is required for all anglers 12 and older.

There will also be face painting and other activities for those whose patience or luck can’t withstand four hours of fishing.

The plan is to get as many carp as possible out of the lake while teaching families about native species and the joys of outdoor activities.

“We thought this would be a good chance to get families out into the refuge for some fun,” said Dan Balduini of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, noting that carp are fun to hook because they often put up a good fight.

And while not a fan of carp, either stuffed and mounted on his wall or served up on his plate, Balduini acknowledged that some anglers do eat the fish, which is often compared in taste to catfish.

In fact there are entire Web sites dedicated to turning this muck sucker into an edible meal.

Most suggest copious quantities of butter.

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