Alabama Waters Alien Invasion

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We’re being invaded by alien fish imported from Asia. War has been waged against these intruders as they slowly, but steadily encroach on the waters of Alabama.

Who are these aliens? Four species of Asian carp have invaded the United States: silver carp, bighead carp, grass carp, and black carp. Three of these have already been documented in Alabama, with the exception being the black carp; however, black carp were recently found in Kentucky Lake which is just one navigational lock away from Alabama’s Pickwick Reservoir.

Silver Carp

Silver carp, the wild and crazy jumping fish, have been well documented on internet videos slamming into boats and conducting aerial acrobatics injuring boaters. An escapee from aquaculture ponds along the Mississippi River, this alien invader has meandered its way throughout the Mississippi River drainage. Silver carp filter both zooplankton and phytoplankton from the water. These filter feeders compete with our native fishes such as paddlefish, gizzard shad, threadfin shad, bream, and even small bass. Their large schooling behavior can overwhelm river systems and available resources.

BigHead Carp

Bighead carp have been found throughout the Alabama portion of the Tennessee River. This alien invader can exceed 100 pounds, but are not the jumping threat like their cousin the silver carp. Bighead carp feed primarily on zooplankton, so they compete with native fishes to a lesser degree and do not have the tendency to overwhelm river systems like the silver carp.

Grass Carp

Grass carp (white amur) have been around for over half a century and are popular with private pond owners for maintaining undesirable aquatic vegetation in their ponds. They have been stocked in some reservoirs to manage nuisance aquatic vegetation such as hydrilla and milfoil. Grass carp do not devastate river systems like the silver carp.

Black Carp

Black carp have now been documented in Kentucky Lake. This alien invader is another species that concerns biologists. They appear very similar to grass carp and may have been mistakenly brought into the United States with shipments of grass carp. Black carp feed almost solely on snails and mussels (mollusks). Alabama has many mollusks that are already of conservation concern. If black carp become established, these threatened mullusks could disappear along with animals that rely on mollusks for food. Mollusks are nature’s water purifiers, so if their abundance is reduced, water quality problems are likely to result.

Commercial net angling and bow fishing are currently the only means of managing carp. In order to entice commercial netters to target these fish, there needs to be a viable market. Electric barriers have been used in some areas of the U.S. to deter upriver migrations, but barriers do not stop humans from moving carp from one body of water to another. Young Asian carp are difficult to identify and are similar in appearance to skipjack herring, gizzard shad, and threadfin shad, and could mistakenly be transferred to new areas by live bait anglers.

To minimize the potential spread of these fish, follow these simple steps.

  • Never move live fish from one water body to another — it is illegal!
  • Don’t harvest bait or transport water from infested water bodies.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash, NOT in lakes and rivers.
  • Drain all of the water from your boat (including the bilge and live well) and all equipment away from waterways and storm drains.
  • Learn how to identify Asian carp.

If you think you have found or captured a silver, bighead, or black carp, contact the District 1 Office at 256-353-2634. Do not release the fish back into the water, but instead remove the fish and dispose of it properly.