'Flying fish' cause major problems for fishermen, ecosystem - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Flying fish' cause major problems for fishermen, ecosystem

(WMC-TV) - Mid-South fishermen are asking for help as a specific type of fish seems to be starving other fish in the Mississippi River. They say it is causing a major problem.

Asian Carp, also known as flying fish, are not indigenous to this country, but they have been plaguing the Mississippi River for decades. Now, the state is exploring new ways to fight back.

James Patterson is a longtime fisherman on the river. He has encountered his fair share of Asian Carp.

"I had 13 of them in the boat before I could even cut the engine off. They were like five to 10 pounds apiece," he said.

State wildlife officials describe the fish as a problem that has only gotten worse over the years because the filter-feeders disrupt the ecosystem.

"They are starving our primary forage fish out of existence on the river," said Patterson. "The population of Shad has declined drastically over the past 10 to 15 years."

Patterson continued, "Bass, Brim, Crappy, White Bass, that's in the river. They forage on Shad. Well, since the Shad are not there, those fish have declined greatly."

The state is discussing relaxing regulations for commercial fisherman to give them more leeway when catching Asian Carp, including using larger gill nets. State Wildlife and Resource officials say some sport fisherman are opposed to the changes.

"That right now this commercial fisherman is catching carp is the only way that we can see in the foreseeable future to manage and control carp. And if something is not done to fend them out and control their numbers then the sport fish are definitely going to be affected and they may not have the fishery like they're used to having," said Bobby Wilson, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA).

Jumping carp. Flying fish. It is an old problem, for which the state is exploring new solutions.

TWRA officials will be in West Tennessee to discuss the matter with local fishermen and biologists.

If the regulations do pass, it will take months before they go into effect.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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