Asian Carp and Lake Erie & an Almost Snow-Free Winter

  • A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love). (Photo by Rebecca Williams)

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades. Bighead and silver carp are the species people are the most concerned about.

There’s been a lot of focus on keeping carp out of Lake Michigan.

But a new study finds carp might do well in Lake Erie and some of the rivers that feed the lake.

Patrick Kocovsky is a research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He says it’s believed Asian carp need specific conditions to make babies.

“What’s currently believed is Asian carp require some kind of flood event in a tributary.”

He says the carp need just the right temperature… a river that’s flowing fast enough and a stretch of river long enough to reproduce.

Kocovsky and his team studied the major tributaries of Lake Erie. They found that the Maumee River is highly suitable for Asian carp to lay eggs.

The researchers found the Sandusky and Grand Rivers to be moderately suitable for carp.

Patrick Kocovsky says if carp can get into Lake Erie, the western side of the lake is likely to be the most hospitable.

Bighead and silver carp eat plankton. Kocovsky says this could be bad news for other fish that eat plankton.

“The primary concern is if Asian carp become established in Lake Erie, they will exert pressure on the plankton food source and possibly have detrimental effects on other planktivores and that might cascade through the entire food web.”

And that could end up hurting the popular sportfish in Lake Erie – walleye and yellow perch.

There is some debate among scientists over how big of an impact Asian carp might have on the Great Lakes.

“I would agree there is still debate but more and more, I think people are coming to believe that Asian carp do pose a threat and that we should be concerned.”

But he says there’s not nearly as much attention on keeping carp out of Lake Erie as there is on keeping them out of Lake Michigan.

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This is the Environment Report.

The arrival of winter in Michigan is not supposed to last long. The cold snap earlier this week is expected to give way early next week to temperatures back in the forties. The lack of snow is taking a toll on some parts of the state’s tourism economy. Peter Payette reports:

Forecaster Mike Boguth says northern Michigan might set a record this year for the least amount of snowfall ever. Boguth works at the National Weather Service office in Gaylord. He says what little snow there is now could melt next week when temperatures rise.

“We don’t see any signs of cold weather coming back after we get by this week.”

Most ski resorts up north opened in December. That’s because nighttime temperatures have been cold enough to make snow.

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter. That was this past weekend which included the Martin Luther King holiday.

Dave Ramsey owns Beaver Creek Resort near Gaylord. He says just enough snow fell late last week to open the trails.

Still, more than half his cabins were empty this weekend when he would usually have a waiting list.

“Every hotel in Gaylord every motel and little cabin cluster will just about fill to capacity on every major holiday if we have good snow.”

The weather could also create problems for the North America Vasa. The cross-country ski race near Traverse City could draw 1,000 racers and the second weekend in February.

The VASA trail has three inches of base but no snow-making capacity.

For the Environment Report, I’m Peter Payette.

And that’s the Environment Report for today. I’m Rebecca Williams.