Contact: Robert Matthews, Senior Coordinator Upper Midwestern States
Why It Matters: As the original conservationists, sportsmen and women should be informed on threats that invasive species pose to their local ecosystems. With that information, anglers can inform their state wildlife management authorities when they observe one of these species in a place it doesn’t belong. Active management is crucial to protecting native populations that sportsmen and women have enjoyed for time immemorial.
Sportsmen and women often pride themselves on knowing the best fishing spots around and exactly what can be caught there. While keeping that prized honey-hole a family secret may help land a few more keepers, anglers shouldn’t keep everything that they find on the water to themselves. This is especially true when they observe the presence of an invasive species.
Acting on a tip received by a local angler, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced earlier this month that it captured and removed an invasive silver carp from Lake Calumet, a mere seven miles from Lake Michigan. Silver carp are one of several species that are collectively known as invasive carp, which threaten to destroy the Great Lakes ecosystem if their presence is not detected early and eradicated. With no natural predators, invasive carp would cripple native fish populations upon entering the Great Lakes by depleting precious food resources. This carp was the third in Illinois since 2010 found above the electric dispersal barriers that are designed to keep them out of the Great Lakes.
The invader captured in Illinois serves as a reminder to anglers everywhere that while they may know exactly what species they’ll find at their favorite fishing spot, it’s imperative to also know what they should not find. Sportsmen and women are the original conservationists, bearing much of the wildlife management funding responsibility through the highly successful “user pays — public benefit” approach of the American System of Conservation Funding. However, more than just financial supporters of their state wildlife management agency, sportsmen and women are also best suited to alert those agencies of potential problems they encounter while enjoying our time-honored traditions.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation works closely with partners across the country to educate policy makers about the risks posed by aquatic invasive species. In addition to a recent episode in CSF’s Summer Webinar Series, CSF has hosted forums focused on this issue throughout the country. Likewise, CSF has engaged on several efforts to prevent the spread of invasive carp, including supporting an effort in Tennessee in 2021 to install various barriers designed to limit carp dispersal on the Tennessee River system.
To help protect your waters from invasive species like invasive carp, consider adding your state wildlife management agency’s phone number into your contacts, so you can quickly let them know if you find an unwelcome visitor near your favorite honey-hole.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?