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There’s no real need to cry over spilled carp

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Back on Oct. 28, I received a text message from my sister in Florida.

Apparently, she had earlier received a message from our niece here in Blair County about a bunch of carp being stranded in shallow water because of the lake at Lakemont Park being drained.

At that time, I hadn’t heard a thing about the Lakemont draw-down or any stranded carp there. But I wanted to provide some perspective to my sister and niece, so I composed a message back to them.

My first thoughts to them were that Lakemont Park is owned by Blair County and the so-called lake there is little more than a shallow, man-made mud hole.

The lake is not open to fishing, which is not a big deal because it has little value as a fishery because it is mostly full of common carp and other trash fish.

Carp are a large and useless invasive species that was first imported to North America in the 1830s from China and Asia.

They are prolific breeders that may spawn several times a year with a single female producing almost a million eggs. Carp are now found throughout the United States and Canada.

They have a terrible negative impact on any ecosystem they invade and will destroy habitat to the detriment of native species.

All our waterways would benefit greatly if all carp on this continent were eradicated.

I realize many of my fellow anglers might be thinking, “But carp get really big and are fun to catch.”

That is true. I have caught dozens, if not hundreds, of carp weighing 10 pounds or more, including a 30-pound monster on light spinning tackle and 8-pound test line a few years ago.

While fishing from my kayak on the Juniata River, I often see schools of large carp averaging 8 to 15 pounds lazily swim by you. I would my rather see all that biomass be smallmouth bass rather than a bunch of ugly carp. And given the choice of catching a 20-pound carp or a 3- or 4-pound smallmouth, I’ll take the bass every time.

After responding to the girls in my family, I thought that was the end of the Lakemont carp saga for me.

That is until I saw that carp story made the front page of the Altoona Mirror on three of the next four editions. The story last Monday particularly piqued my interest.

That piece focused mostly on the opinions of some folks who were emotional regarding the potential demise of some carp or some others who were planning to rescue the stranded fish and transferring them elsewhere.

As a lifelong angler and conservationist, I don’t care to see a bunch of these or any carp restocked in some other waterway. As previously mentioned, we have too many carp in too many places already.

It should be pointed out that salvaging the carp with buckets, nets, seines or by hand by individual citizens as noted in the article would be illegal.

In Pennsylvania, carp can only be taken by hook and line, spears or gigs, and bow and arrow by persons possessing a valid fishing license.

In addition, it is illegal to release most species of fish into a public waterway without a permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and that agency is unlikely to grant a permit for the transfer of carp anywhere in Pennsylvania.

I confirmed these facts with a PFBC spokesman last week.

For the folks whose heartstrings have been affected by the stranded carp, saying they are “living things” and “God’s creatures,” that is certainly true.

But let’s remember that rats, mice, bats, snakes, mosquitoes and houseflies are also living things and God’s creatures too.

If there were a rat-infested abandoned building or garbage dump in their neighborhood that was scheduled to be cleaned up and the rats exterminated, would there be the same outcry and emotions?

Of course not.

There have always been certain creatures that are generally considered varmints or vermin because they conflict with human activity and need to be controlled. Carp fit into that category.

I also wonder if those who are distraught about the demise of a bunch of useless carp realize we have lost virtually all our cave-dwelling bats due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.

Bats are quite beneficial creatures that are vital for controlling mosquitoes and other insect pests.

Losing them represents an ecological catastrophe of mammoth proportions. Yet ask most folks about that terrible tragedy and most will be ambivalent at best, because out of ignorance and fear, they find bats scary and repulsive.

No one loves wildlife and fish more than I do. I’ve spent most of my life involved with the conservation and preservation of our natural resources as well as trying to educate others about the things that really matter.

Some dead carp at Lakemont is a non-starter for me.

We have plenty of real challenges and problems here in Blair County and central Pennsylvania.

If the carp sympathizers are truly serious about making a difference for fish and fisheries, our local Trout Unlimited chapter or the Little Juniata River Association are just two worthwhile organizations that welcome volunteers willing to invest some time, money or expertise to make a difference.

We need action, not misplaced emotion.

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