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Asian Carp Range Increasing in Eastern South Dakota Rivers

Anglers who see or capture silver or bighead carp outside of the James, Vermillion and Big Sioux rivers or below Gavin’s Point Dam are asked to report their findings to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Anglers may do so online or by calling a local GFP office.

In an effort to slow the spread of silver and bighead carp, anglers are reminded that catching bait below Gavin’s Point Dam on the Missouri River and in the James, Vermillion and Big Sioux rivers is now prohibited. While some anglers will be impacted by the prohibition, it is a necessary step to keep those undesirable fish species from continuing to expand their range.

In addition, the Game, Fish and Parks Department reminds anglers coming to South Dakota that they may not bring bait fish into the state, which will help reduce unwanted introductions of aquatic nuisance species and fish diseases.

“Anglers are one of the first lines of defense against the spread of unwanted species,” said Geno Adams, GFP fisheries program administrator. “Being aware of what’s in your bait bucket and making sure there are no unwanted hitchhikers on your boat are two ways to help fight the spread of these harmful species.”

High water levels in eastern South Dakota rivers in recent years have allowed for the expansion of silver and bighead carp in those rivers. Anglers should be aware of the increased possibility of encountering silver and bighead carp, often referred to as Asian carp.

An ongoing research project by South Dakota State University has confirmed that, in addition to the Missouri River below Gavin’s Point Dam, those unwanted species have spread along the entire length of the James River and portions of the Vermillion and Big Sioux rivers.

Asian carp were first found in South Dakota just below Gavin’s Point Dam on the Missouri River in the late 1990s and began spreading about a decade ago into tributaries of the Missouri River – such as the James River. Both silver and bighead carp are filter feeders and compete for food with young game fish, bait fish and native fish species.

Asian carp can grow to more than 50 pounds and 40 inches in length, and females of the species are capable of producing more than one million eggs per year. Silver carp are known for leaping out of the water when startled by boat motors – sometimes injuring boaters.

Along with range expansion, ongoing research at SDSU is trying to determine the effects of those undesirable species on aquatic food sources in eastern South Dakota’s rivers and also document the extent of natural reproduction in South Dakota.