MIKE BRAUN Did angler tangle with the bighead?



Yet another area resident has reported a connection with an exotic Asian carp species that was found recently in Mill Creek Metropolitan Park's Lake Glacier.
Rick Giles of Medford Road, Youngstown, saw the recent stories in The Vindicator about a large fish that washed ashore at Glacier in mid-July.
The fish was identified by fish biologists from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife as a bighead carp, one of several species of Asian carp that were brought to this country years ago to help control pond vegetation.
Recognized photo
Giles recognized a photograph of the remains of the fish that ran on The Vindicator outdoors page Aug. 17 as similar to one that he tangled with at the same lake at the end of the 1990s.
"I caught that fish about four years ago," Giles said and produced photographs to prove it.
"I was fishing for trout sometime in the spring at Glacier," he explained. "All of a sudden, my pole bent in half."
Giles said that the fish stripped nearly all the line on his ultralight rod before he was able to muscle it to shore. When he dragged it out of the water, he couldn't believe his eyes.
"I had snagged the fish by the tail, so it was mainly a tug-of-war," he said. "I was reeling one way and the fish was going the other."
Giles said he had no idea what the fish was at that time although he did note that it had a mouth like a largemouth bass, which is one of the more striking identification points on a bighead carp.
He said the fish measured between 47 and 48 inches long and weighed about 40 pounds. "I only had one of those cheap, little scales," he said.
After he weighed it, Giles dropped the fish back into the water and thought little more about it until he saw last week's photo.
"I've caught some monster carp," he said. "But this one was big."
Giles said he has fished for carp in Mill Creek at Lake Newport before it was dredged and at Glacier for a number of years, mainly for enjoyment and to keep his father company.
"At one time this place was thick with them," he said. "I used to just give them away."
It was a bighead
Meanwhile, fish biologists from the Ohio Division of Wildlife said the fish that washed ashore at Glacier is definitely a bighead, not a grass or white amur, both different species of Asian carp.
A local man contended last week that the fish discovered at the lake was one of four he had placed in his own pond in the mid-1980s and that were eventually washed downstream and into Mill Creek Park's waters.
Wendell Jones of St. Albans Drive in Boardman said he bought four of what he said were described to him as white amur in 1986 for a pond he built at 4646 Hopkins Road near Truesdale Road.
A flood in the 1990s washed the pond out along with the fish, he said. Jones could not be sure about the species that he had bought, but he did say he had dutifully filled out the required state paperwork.
Jones did describe the fish's incredible jumping ability, something that bighead carp are known to do.
Division of Wildlife officials said they would reserve judgment on any link between Jones' Asian carp and the 51-inch specimen found at Glacier.
Matt Wolfe, a fisheries biologist from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the scale samples he received from the Mill Creek Park police recently were those of a bighead carp. The various Asian carp species can be identified from the characteristics of their scales.
Keeping eyes open
The division is also keeping its eyes open for the possibility that the carp have made their way to the Mahoning River.
A company that has been contracted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to sample sites within the Mahoning River as part of a proposed dredging project will be asked to watch for the carp.
Phil Hillman, a DOW fisheries biologist, said the company has been asked to be on the lookout for the carp species and to forward data about any findings to the division.
Additionally, according to Division of Wildlife sources, division fish management supervisors have been discussing plans for a simple sampling exercise in Ohio River tributaries relating to the carp within the next month.
Departments of wildlife in states that border the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed have been concerned over the incursion of bighead and other Asian carp in recent years.
According to information from Internet sites on the carp species, there are four invasive species of carp -- silver, bighead, grass and black -- collectively known as Asian carp.
Imported from Asia
Bigheads were imported from Asia in the 1970s and 1980s to control plankton in fish farms in the south, said Jerry Rasmussen, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a coordinator with the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association.
The fish first appeared in public waterways in the early 1980s after floods helped them escape the farm ponds where they were being raised.
The fish are plankton and vegetation feeders, so they eat microscopic plants and animals -- and can reach weights of more than 80 pounds.
Furthermore, the fish apparently can out-compete native fish in the realm of eating, thereby causing a problem in whatever bodies of water they inhabit.
The carp are supposed to be sterile, unable to reproduce.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials have resorted to erecting barriers between the Mississippi River watershed and Lake Michigan in efforts to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes.
braun@vindy.com

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