An angler bowfishing on the Mississippi River north of Sartell last week shot a 25-pound grass carp, an exotic species that previously has been found only much further south in Minnesota, including lower portions of the Mississippi, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Because DNR fisheries biologists believe the fish could not have gotten past the dams at Coon Rapids, St. Cloud and Sartell, it likely escaped via flood waters from a private pond, or was released intentionally.
Possession of grass carp is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It is legal for reporting purposes to possess specimens, as the angler did.
There are state regulations in place to prevent the importation of these species and transfers between lakes. As a result, the DNR has not seen a lot of invasive fish spread though overland transfer compared to other animals and plants.
“Minnesota has strong laws against introducing exotic species into our public waters because it’s a serious matter,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Waters Division. “Invasive species like this can pose a significant threat to our native fisheries, recreational opportunities, and ecosystems.”
While the problems caused by bighead and silver carp are raised more frequently, grass carp is another species that can cause environmental harm. They are voracious consumers of aquatic vegetation, can grow to 70 pounds, and can cause water quality problems. Brought to the U.S. from Russia and China in the 1960s to control unwanted vegetation in reservoirs and aquaculture farms, they escaped and are now reproducing in some southern states.
Grass carp previously have been found in southeastern Minnesota, but they are not known to reproduce in Minnesota. A preliminary examination of the 36-inch female grass carp arrowed near Sartell, however, found what appeared to be viable eggs.