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Silver Fin Solutions and the 2021 USGS Modified Unified Method of Harvesting Invasive Carp

Updated: Sep 22

Although the USGS Modified Unified Method of harvesting Invasive Carp Silver Fin (MUM) was not as successful in harvesting mass numbers of invasive carp from Kentucky Lake in 2020 as it had been in other waters, the USGS planned to return for a second effort in January and February 2021 with a few modifications in herding methods and a new type of seine. Murray State University (MSU) received several invasive carp research projects from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and one of those projects included harvesting and disposing of fish harvested during the 2021 MUM.

MSU reached out to sub-contract with SFS because of our similar involvement in the 2020 MUM, the large-scale equipment we have for the type of projects to be conducted, and our leadership’s history of commitment to developing and improving mass-harvest methods for invasive carps and traditional commercial fishing efficiencies. By fall 2020, SFS understood a contract was imminent with MSU, however, details were not completed until mid-February 2021. Consequently, SFS had to move fast without initial funding for lodging and equipment before the 2021 MUM was started in January.

SFS was able to procure a tugboat, two barges, and a heavy-duty crane and get the pieces fabricated and mounted in time for the 2021 MUM. There were initially mechanical issues that arose from trying to get the equipment to work together, but with considerable help from friends and family, by the second round of the MUM in February. The tug, barges, and crane operation were operable and SFS founder, Darrow Wenom also found time to obtain a tug captain’s license!

During the January 2021 MUM, harvested fish were loaded into totes and large bags in boats near shore where the USGS seined the fish. Harvests were relatively small, so the fish were manually loaded into commercial fishers’ boats or the SFS Frying Pan and taken to Hillmans Ferry boat ramp in Pisgah Bay. SFS was loaned a boom truck for offloading and weighing fish at the ramp, and we thank the Kentucky Fish Center, a fish buying and selling business located at the Eddyvillle Port of Authority in Lyon County, for the truck. The fish were then loaded onto SFS flatbed trailers and donated to fishers assisting SFS.

In February, SFS' barge and crane were ready for the MUM and positioned in the bay adjacent to the USGS distal block net. The seine was to be pulled along the block net and manipulated so that fish could be lifted by our braille net, weighed, and deposited in bags or totes on the barge. However, shallow water prevented the barge from sitting close enough to shore for easy access to the fish, and the USGS was not able to shift the seine-containing fish close to the barge. Unexpectedly small fish hauls made it practical to manually put the fish in totes and bags in boats near shore, and the boats subsequently brought the fish to the barge where our crane was used to pick up and weigh the totes and bags and reload them into the boats. At times, the boats were those of commercial fishers who took the fish to buyers, other times the boats were transported to Hillmans Ferry boat ramp in Pisgah Bay where they were offloaded onto an SFS trailer and transported to buyers. As in January, SFS received no payment for fish delivered to buyers. Commercial fishers have donated the fish.

The picture at the boat ramp shows the Kentucky Fish Center's boom truck used for offloading fish. In January, the bags and totes were weighed with SFS’ hanging scale and our skid steer was used to load the fish on flatbed trailers. Fish were then transported on the trailers to buying stations and donated to commercial fishers assisting SFS with the project.

The USGS tried once to shift a seine containing fish to the barge as shown in the video below. Although the attempt failed to contain the carp so they could be lifted by braille into totes on the barges, it did provide information for future efforts, whether needing to move seine full of to the barge or how to manipulated the seine haul to have the bunt of the seine next to the barge and be able to lift the lead line without losing fish.

Despite considerable effort, the USGS had very little success in harvesting invasive carp in January and February 2021. Challenging weather, getting accustomed to a new seine structure, and perhaps adjustments made to streamline the system just did not result in large harvests. There was also the potential that invasive carps have altered behaviors towards nets and fishing after several years of commercial fishing pressure in Kentucky and Barkley lakes. SFS was present at every seining event in 2021 and received every tote of fish-filled. Fish were weighed, KDFWR took data from samples of the fish, and SFS donated fish to commercial fishers who volunteered to assist with various aspects of the harvest and site preparations. In winter 2022, SFS will conduct projects as part of our MSU contract that will include experimenting with various harvest gears and methods as well as aspects of the USGS MUM to try and improve efficiency and harvest results.

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