SD GFP Counting On Fishers, Boaters To Stop The Spread Of Invasive Species

Conservation Officer On Asian Carp: "They've spread as far as they can naturally."

This summer season, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is asking for your help. There are several invasive species infesting our waters. To help prevent the spread, they need cooperation from fishers and boaters.

Last week, we told you about the Zebra Mussels that have been found in a second lake in the state. They were first discovered in the Lewis & Clark in Yankton last August. Just before Memorial Day this year, they were found in McCook Lake too. Parks officials say the mussels cause environmental problems. They eat the same things forage and juvenile fish do and can clog city and agricultural water intake pipes.

Wednesday, we went on the hunt for a much bigger invasive species lurking in our waters, causing problems in the Missouri River and the James too.

“They’re very common. They’re in the James River, all the way up to North Dakota,” said South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Conservation Officer Dan Altman.

Altman says this invasive species has been in South Dakota for 20 years. But it wasn’t until 2011, when the Missouri flooded, that we started to see more Asian Carp.

“With all the high water we had in our lakes and rivers, they were able to expand to places that they were not able to expand before the flood.” Altman said, “I’ve probably seen as many as 50 of them in the air around my boat at one time. Other days, you can take a boat ride and only see a couple.”

It was one of those days. We had to really make some noise in order to see them.

“When they get startled, they jump high out of the water,” said Altman. “Just a little bit ago, I saw one jump eight feet out of the water, so they can fly pretty high.”

Altman says it’s their defense mechanism. However, it becomes a problem when boaters take to the water.

Altman said, “Obviously, if you’re going that fast and a 2-4 pound fish comes flying out and hits you at that speed, it’s going to do some damage.”

KDLT Photographer Josh Bixler witnessed the danger first hand. While filming, he was hit by one from behind.

Bixler said, “Right in the back of the head.”

And they’re more than just a headache to us. Asian Carp out-compete natural fish and organisms.

“They usually migrate to the backwater areas,” said Altman.

The good news is they likely won’t go any further on their own.

“They’ve spread as far as they can naturally so if any of these invasive species are going to infest any other water bodies in our state, it’s going to be done through human interactions,” Altman said.

Meaning, they’ll only spread, if we let them.

To prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels, boaters are required to remove drain plugs before leaving ramps and drain water from livewells. To help with Asian Carp, you shouldn’t take bait buckets home that have been contaminated by lake and river water. It’s also illegal to transport the fish alive. Altman says some people have discarded the fish on the shore, which only causes more problems, odor problems.