The North Dakota Game and Fish Department recently collected and verified bighead carp in the James River near LaMoure during silver carp monitoring efforts. Bighead carp, an exotic species, are established in the lower Missouri River and in the James River in South Dakota. This is the first report of this aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota waters.
Jessica Howell, Game and Fish aquatic nuisance species coordinator, said department personnel are disappointed but not surprised that bighead carp have entered the state.
“High water levels in the James River this year have facilitated their movements upstream, providing an opportunity for them to enter the state from the South Dakota portions,” Howell said.
Game and Fish staff will continue to sample the James River on a regular basis to monitor the silver and bighead carp populations, as well as to detect any new potential species that migrate during high flows.
“Once established in a large river system they are virtually impossible to eliminate,” Howell said.
Like the closely related silver carp that showed up in 2011, bighead carp can out-compete native and other game fish in large river systems. They eat phytoplankton, a food item used by zooplankton, which in turn are eaten by small game fish. They concentrate below dams and in confluence areas and can drive out desirable fish.