FRANKFORT, Ky. –The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is investigating a massive die-off of Asian carp discovered Wednesday, April 23, in the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley.
The fish kill is estimated to have impacted tens of thousands of the invasive silver carp over a 24-hour period. Specimens will be collected and taken to Kentucky State University for disease testing.
“Whenever there is one species of fish, you are definitely thinking viral or bacterial,” said Paul Rister, western fisheries district biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “It’s not anything water quality wise. If it was oxygen related or chemical related you would see other species. Primarily what we are seeing below Barkley Dam is all Asian carp.”
Evidence of the fish kill has been documented to the confluence with the Ohio River. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley do not appear to be impacted at this time, Rister said.
“There are still some jumping in the turbulence of the water right below the dam and there are some that are swimming right under the water surface,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of those and they appear to have fungal infections on their back, which is a secondary infection of some other type of stressor.”
The silver carp is one of four species of Asian carp that have spread throughout much of the Mississippi River basin after escaping from fish farms in the 1970s.
In Kentucky, the fish are found throughout most of the Ohio River, Kentucky River, Green River, Salt River and Rough River. Kentucky and Barkley lakes also host large populations.
Asian carp are a threat to Kentucky’s native species because they feed on plankton. Plankton forms the base of the food chain, which many sport fish rely upon after hatching.