Like blood running through an artery, the Ohio River is vital. But something is tugging at that life line and fisherman can't reel them in fast enough.

Asian carp are exploding in numbers threatening many of our waterways and now there is yet another threat. Black carp, another member of the Asian carp family, appears to be headed our way.

There are four members of the Asian carp family. Grass carp were originally imported to help control aquatic plants in ponds. They are the least destructive. Big head and silver carp (flying carp) were brought in to control plankton in aquaculture ponds, primarily in our southern states. Extreme flooding in the 1990s allowed these fish to escape into the Mississippi River. From there they have used it as an interstate and continue to move northward where they now threaten many waterways and the fish that reside in them, including our very own Wildcat Creek.

Massive schools of silver and big head are already out-competing native game fish populations. Now we have another. Black carp probably pose a bigger threat to our waterways.

They can be even more destructive. Their diet consists of snails and mollusks, which many native fish species need to survive. They were also introduced to control snails in aquaculture ponds.

How they escaped is still unclear. Some believe it was through flood events while some think they were originally misidentified as grass carp. Both species are very similar in appearance and there is no reliable method to distinguish them based on external features. Generally the black carp will have a narrower and cone-shaped head where the grass carp will be more blunt and rounder.

Unlike the other species of carp, which are often times seen near the surface where they can be susceptible to bow fishermen and commercial fishermen, black carp just stay underwater and eat.

“Black carp are unlike their relatives silver and big head carp,” said Indiana DNR South Region Fisheries Supervisor Dan Carnahan. "The other carp eat plankton, and primarily zooplankton, which is the source for the whole food chain. Black carp eat further up the food chain.”

Carnahan pointed out that black carp are threat to our native mussel and snail populations, many which are already endangered.

Carnahan said they were aware black carp were just 8 miles from the state line on the river, but it's likely the fish are now already in Indiana waters.

"If you've got one, there's probably a lot more,” he added.

"We're trying to raise awareness to our commercial fishermen and other anglers using the river that might run into them. We want to know when they catch one and where they catch it at," he added. "Get it on ice and give us a call and we'll come pick it up."

Whenever a state puts a bounty on anything, you know it’s serious and that’s just what Illinois is doing. As an added incentive to get black carp out of the Ohio River and other waterways the state actually has a bounty on the fish where people can get a hundred bucks for each black carp.


Eric Kinney and Chance Taskey won Monday evening’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction and Roby’s Bullseye Outdoors. The winners carried five largemouth bass to the scales totaling 8.74 pounds. Jim Lorts secured second place with five fish weighing 7.92 pounds. Third place and the weekly event’s honor for big bass went to Steve Kelley with three fish dropping the scales at 7.11 pounds, his largest weighing 3.58 pounds.


Wayne Eads and Paul Crow swept Tuesday’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney staged on Mississinewa Reservoir. The winners carried in three fish totaling 5 pounds, 5 ounces. A largemouth tipping the scales at 2 pounds, 5 ounces also gave them the tourney’s award for biggest bass. Jim Helvig and Larry Richards snagged second with two fish weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. Keith Milburn and Ed Lyke collected third with two fish dropping the scales at 3 pounds, 1 ounce.

John Martino is the Tribune's outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at

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