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Discovery of More Asian Carp DNA Will Bring Boatloads of Biologists to Lake Calumet Next Week

By JoshMogerman in News on Jul 7, 2012 8:00PM

We hope you are not sick of Asian carp stories, because things are getting serious again in Lake Calumet. The biggest body of water contained within Chicago’s city limits has been a hot spot for Asian carp searches and stands as the only place where a live carp has been caught beyond the electric barrier that was erected to keep the invasive fish at bay and out of the Great Lakes. Evidence is mounting that they could be back in Lake Calumet’s murky waters.

Friday, a third straight round of water monitoring tests came back showing traces of the flying fishes’ DNA in Lake Calumet, triggering what will be an intense response from state and federal agencies. The South Side waterway will be crawling with biologists for much of next week as fishing operations utilizing electrofishing boats and an array of net technologies search for live silver carp.

This investigation adds drama to what has already been a carp-tastic year that included Congressional action to speed up the process to identify a solution to the invasion and an Illinois General Assembly effort to make it easier to shotgun the watery varmints.

The tiny silver lining to this mess is news that anything can actually survive in Lake Calumet, an area that was once so polluted that a 1954 study showed it was too toxic to support even sludge worms, a species renown for its ability to survive in environments where no other creatures can persist. Sierra Club Illinois has a fascinating feature on Lake Calumet that notes:

In 1893, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers indicated that, "keeping the Grand Calumet River channel clear was a fruitless exercise because it "filled up rapidly by slaughterhouse refuse and filth from manufacturing establishments and solid matter from the sewage poured into the dead stream. North Chicago Rolling Mill located at mouth of Calumet River deposited so much slag and dredge that the area around it grew at four acres per year.
We hope the biologists trolling the Lake will be careful next week! It would be a bad idea to fall out of their boats. And a worse idea to let the improvements seen in Chicago’s waterways system, which has come a long way in recent decades, to be overrun by invasive species like the carp.

Here’s a quick Army Corps of Engineers video showing how electrofishing works in the fight against Asian carp:

And here’s what it looks like in part of the Illinois River which have become infested with jumping silver carp: