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Invasive Carp

Invasive Carp

Identify invasive carp:

Report Invasive Carp

Threat to the Great Lakes

Bighead, silver and black carp are spreading throughout streams, rivers and lakes in the Mississippi River and Midwest region. Where established, their populations have been increasing with the fastest expansions occurring in the Missouri and Illinois rivers.

The most recent data indicate invasive carp are just 10 miles from the three electric barriers installed in the Chicago Area Waterway System to prevent invasive species movement.

In June 2017, a commercial fisher caught a silver carp below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam, approximately nine miles from Lake Michigan and on the Lake Michigan side of the electric barriers designed to stop invasive carp.

This is the second time a bighead or silver carp has been found above the electric dispersal barriers. A bighead carp was found in Lake Calumet in 2010, just 6 miles away from Lake Michigan.

Recently, a black carp was captured at mile 137 of the Illinois River, 110 miles closer to Lake Michigan than previous captures.

Grass carp have been found in low numbers in all the Great Lakes except for Lake Superior (most often in Lake Erie), since the mid-1980s. In some Great Lakes states, grass carp have been introduced into waterways for aquatic nuisance plant control since the 1970’s. Currently only sterile grass carp are allowed to be stocked in some Great Lakes states, but Michigan prohibits any live possession of the species.   

map of chicago area waterway system locating invasive carp captures

Why be concerned?


    While bighead and silver carps are not established in any of the Great Lakes, invasive carp are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to that of their native range in Asia. According to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study, if introduced to the Great Lakes these fish are expected to flourish in the near shore areas and large river tributaries.

    While we believe all invasive carp pose a significant threat to the natural ecosystems and recreational opportunities, we are especially concerned about bighead and silver carp.

    Reduced fishing opportunities

    Researchers predict bighead and silver carp, due to their large size and high reproductive rates, will disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes, such as walleye, yellow perch and lake whitefish and may result in reduced recreational and commercial fishing opportunities in the region.

    Threat to human health

    Silver carp pose a direct threat to human health because they leap high out of the water when disturbed by vibrations like those from boat motors. Boaters can and have been injured when hit by leaping fish weighing up to 40 pounds. Michigan's recreational economy could be affected if people are afraid of injury from silver carp and choose not to go boating in areas where silver carp are present.   

    The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has published a flyer outlining safety measures for boaters to avoid injury from flying silver carp.  Recommendations include keeping passengers in the middle of the boat, installing netting or shields to deflect fish and avoiding water skiing, tubing or jet skiing in infested waters. 

    Changing ecosystems

    In other states where bighead and silver carp have become established, they have changed river and lake ecosystems. In the Chicago Area Waterway System, more than 85% of the fish population is made up of invasive carp.  According to the Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, “between 1994 and 1997, commercial catch of bighead carp in the Mississippi River increased from 5.5 tons to 55 tons.  Today, commercial fishers in the Illinois River regularly catch up to 25,000 pounds of bighead and silver carp per day.”

    In early May 2017, a massive silver carp die-off in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Tennessee left thousands of rotting fish along the shoreline, making fishing and recreation nearly unbearable. 

Michigan Takes Action

  • Preventing invasive carp in the Great Lakes is a priority in Michigan. The state is working with regional partners, including state, provincial and federal agencies on prevention and monitoring efforts around the Great Lakes.


    In January 2018, Governor Snyder announced the formation of the Great Lakes Basin Partnership to Block Asian Carp. This growing coalition of states and provinces is committed to supporting the $8 million annual cost of operations and maintenance for the Army Corps of Engineers' Tentatively Selected Plan to reduce the risk of invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Joliet, Illinois.

    Michigan has prepared thorough response exercises to address invasive carp should we find them in the state's waters of the Great Lakes and we have a Mutual Aid Agreement for Aquatic Invasive Species Response, signed by Governor Snyder, with the other states and provinces that will allow them to help us or for us to help them if needed. 

    The Michigan DNR has trained with the Illinois DNR in invasive carp population reduction and monitoring exercises in the Illinois River and continues to conduct field exercises and eDNA surveillance in Lake Erie and tributaries of Lake Michigan in partnership with other Great Lakes states and provinces and the federal government.

    Michigan is a part of the Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, jointly chaired by the EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which aims to prevent bighead, silver and black carp from entering the Great Lakes and colonizing.


    The Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge used a global crowdsourcing competition to find 10 innovative solutions to prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes. These new ideas have been shared with leading researchers in invasive carp management across the U.S.


    Michigan is actively monitoring key locations where invasive carp would congregate if they make their way into the Great Lakes, including the St. Joseph and Kalamazoo Rivers. Results of regular environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring are posted on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries website.

    a person collecting samples for eDNA testing for invasive carp


    A management plan for invasive carp outlining the actions to be taken if invasive carp are found in Michigan's waters has been developed. 

    Though grass carp pose a less significant threat of harm, Michigan is taking a proactive approach with regulations, enforcement, and using a scientific approach to increase the effectiveness of control efforts.