Muskingum River cleared of bighead, silver carp species

Columbus — Searchers looking for bighead and silver carp in the Muskingum River didn’t turn up any of the invasive species, the Ohio DNR reports.

An extensive effort to search three Ohio rivers, including the Muskingum, resulted after environmental DNA of Asian carp was found in the Muskingum.

Water samples taken from the Muskingum River showed traces of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA), according to the DNR Division of Wildlife. We learned of this in April through a report by the Nature Conservancy and other agencies.

In response to those results, the DNR Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deployed electrofishing crews to search for live Asian carp. Electrofishing crews sampled 125 sites in June along the entire stretch of the Muskingum River, as well as portions of the Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers. While some grass carp were observed, no bighead or silver Asian carp were found.

Ohio and 42 other states allow the sale of sterile (triploid) grass carp. These fish eat aquatic vegetation and are used for controlling aquatic vegetation in ponds. Ohio law does not allow importation or stocking of fertile (diploid) grass carp. Ohio law has allowed importation and stocking of certified sterile grass carp since 1988.

Asian carp monitoring efforts are taking place in the Muskingum River because of two direct water connections to Lake Erie in the rivers’ headwaters. A low-lying agricultural area along Killbuck Creek and a connection between the Tuscarawas River and the Little Cuyahoga River at the Ohio-Erie Canal have been identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as potential aquatic pathways between the Mississippi-Ohio River and Lake Erie-Great Lakes basins.

In an interview last month with Ohio Outdoor News, Rich Carter, the Division of Wildlife’s executive administrator for fish management, said remaining vigilant on the Muskingum is a priority for Ohio.

“One of the reasons that the eDNA hits are so important there is that we do have connections to the Great Lakes in the headwaters of that system,” he said.

The nearest eDNA detection in the Muskingum is approximately 100 river miles from the Little Killbuck Creek connection and 120 river miles from the Ohio-Erie Canal connection. Physical barriers prevent Asian carp from crossing the watershed boundary at these locations during normal weather conditions. However, the watersheds have the potential to be connected during extreme flood events. ODNR is coordinating closure studies of both of these sites.

Fish shed cells, blood and tissue as they move through the water column. This material, called eDNA, is suspended in the water and can be collected as part of a surface water sample. Surveillance detects this material and can alert surveyors to the potential of live fish in an area.

Visit ohiodnr.gov/asiancarp for more information about Asian carp and eDNA.

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