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Brief History Of Carp In The Usa

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A Brief History of Carp in North America, CAG historian, Al Kowaleski

Perhaps you have heard that carp, which is an exotic species not native
to North America, have by accident invaded our game fish waters. You may have heard that the carp of today are descended from fish that 'escaped' from private stocks or were illegally introduced by unauthorized persons. How is it then that carp are found in almost every state and in waters hundreds of miles apart from each other. The reason is because the U.S. Fish Commission and almost every one of the state governments in our land undertook one of the greatest far reaching campaigns to establish the carp everywhere in our country. Let me explain.

Prior to 1900, native North American fish were viewed as vital natural
resources. Most of the fish we regard today as sport fish were harvested commercially by the millions of pounds. They were shipped by rail to markets where they were an important food source for a growing
population. This was before the advent of refrigeration and communities
relied on 'ice house' preservation. Harvested were the basses, sunfish,
crappies, pike, walleye, perch, lake trout, and sturgeon. Also coarse
fish such as freshwater drum, buffalo fish, catfish, suckers, bullheads
and others.

The results of large harvests were declining stocks of lake and river
fishes at a time when the population was expanding. To answer these
concerns the U.S. Congress authorized President Ulysses S. Grant to
appoint the US Fish Commission in 1871 to oversee the nation's fisheries interests. Among the first tasks was to consider what species to introduce to bolster the nations supply of food fishes. By 1874 the
commission after long study issued a report entitled "Fishes Especially
worthy of Cultivation" It went on to say that no other species except the carp, promises so great a return in limited waters. Cited were advantages over such fish as black bass, trout, grayling and others " because it is a vegetable feeder, and although not disdaining animal matters can live on vegetation alone and can attain large weight kept in small ponds and tanks".

In 1876 the commission enumerated other good qualities such as high
fecundity (a count of ripe eggs in the female fish), adaptability to
artificial propagation, hardiness of growth, adaptability to
environmental conditions unfavorable to equally palatable species, rapid growth, harmlessness in relation to fish of other species, ability to populate waters to it's greatest extent, and fine table qualities. By 1877 citing the above reasons and adding 'there is no reason why time should be lost with less proved fishes' the commission convinced of the value of carp imported 345 fishes of scaled, mirror and leather carp from German aquaculturists. On May 26th they were placed in the Druid Hill Park ponds in Baltimore Maryland. The ponds proved inadequate and some were transferred to the Babcock lakes on the monument lot in Washington, D.C.

So did they somehow escape from these confines to populate nearly
everywhere? No. Now the state governments get involved. Records indicate in 1879, about 6.203 fingerlings were produced in the Babcock Lakes. These were shipped to 273 applicants in 24 states. About 6000 fingerlings were produced in the Druid Hill ponds that year and were stocked primarily in Maryland. One year later, 31,332 carp were shipped to 1,374 applicants. In 1882 carp production increased to 143,696 fish,
distributed in small lots to 7,000 applicants. In 1883 about 260,000 carp were sent to 9,872 applicants in 298 of 301 congressional districts and into 1,478 counties. During the years 1879-1896 the US Fish Commission distributed 2.4 million carp, some of which were sent to Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico. By 1897 the Commission discontinued the stocking because carp had been distributed nearly everywhere and many states assumed the task of propagation and stocking of carp.

Within several years many states were involved in the propagation and
stocking of millions of carp. The Ohio State Fish Commission stocked
tributaries of Lake Erie. Every major river in Illinois was stocked. Fish rescue missions from 1890-1920 conducted by various states and the US fish Commission stocked hundreds of lakes and rivers, particularly into the Midwestern region of the US. In a few short years the effort to introduce the resource of carp had been successful. Newspapers and
magazines lauded the importance to the food industry and the bright
future of all citizens eating carp.

Commercial production started in the 1900's. During the decade after
World War II, annual catches reached 36 million pounds. Many prominent
restaurants and hotels served carp on the menu. Restaurants of the
Waldorf and Astoria listed "Carp in Rhine Wine Sauce"

Following World War II the saltwater commercial fishing industry captured a major portion of the fishing market by consolidating and modernizing operations This resulted in tremendous productions of ocean fish and improvements in processing, packaging ,shipping and storage and a reduction in operating costs. At a time when the oceans were perceived as pure and our rivers were becoming polluted, contributed among other factors to the decline of carp as a food fish.

History demonstrates that the federal and state governments of the US
undertook a massive effort to install the carp in all of our waters from coast to coast in an effort that no other country has ever embarked upon. History also indicates that American anglers in great numbers lead the world today in the history of carp angling since the earliest turn of the century. Generations of anglers have enjoyed the carp as a sport or food fish. History also indicates that the carp found in our many waters did not escaped the ponds of long ago carp farmers, as the myth is told, but were placed carefully for our angling benefit by thoughtful government agencies.

Alan Kowaleski
Carp Anglers Group

CAG historian, Al Kowaleski

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Interesting read Bob thanks.

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Thanks bob, Al always had some good/alot info about carp!

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What about Buffalo carp Bob?. I have never seen them anywhere else. Are they a native species?

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Buffalo are native as far as I know, I recently read descriptions of a fish I assume to be buffalo in the journals of Lewis and Clark. Thanks for this post Bob.

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BOB; very interesting article,i have a similar article written about the asian carp,saying that they were promoted by the feds 4 decades ago.(michigan outdoor news 4/29/2011)in the 60's &70's there was great concern enviromentaly about the broad use of pesticides & insecticides to protect the enviroment,including fish,birds & wildlife,so natural remedies were sought,asian carp were brought as an environmentally friendly alterative to chemicals.grass carp to reduce vegetation,in fish rearing ponds and big heads & silver to clean up sewage ponds the grass carp was 1st introduced in 1963 .Silver carp were brought to clean up ponds that were rearing catfish,when they started jumping durning catfish collection,that was the end of there use.they were then used for sewage lagoons,grass carp though continued to be used for weed control accross the south. Black carp are now used to control a parasite deadly to catfish reared on southern farms,snails serve as an intermediate host for the tremaode,and the black carp are very good at eating the snails,the parasites are transported by fish eating birds like pelicans..some other facts=1972 grass carp had been stocked in open water systems in 16 different states,1972=1st report of silver carp in the wild in arizona,then in arkansas in 1975.in 1977 silver & bighead had been introduced to alabama,arizona,arkansas,illinios & tennessee. so maybe it was the asian carp that were being talked about? this is the 2nd of a series written about the asian carp,by michigan outdoor news(bill wazelle)

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What about Buffalo carp Bob?. I have never seen them anywhere else. Are they a native species?

Native species...not a carp as thought by many but a sucker.

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I think there is little doubt that the distribution of carp has been further assisted by flooding of various waterways. They seem to exploit any opportunity to expand their territory!

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Thanks for sharing, Bob.

I had always heard that carp were introduced to USA waters intentionally, primarily as a food fish. But until now, I had never read any of the detailed history found in Al's article.

I've been fishing for carp for more than 50 years. Unfortunately, in my earlier (and badly misinformed) days 45 years ago, I believed them to be an undesirable species, and -- even though I released most the ones I caught -- I was guilty of mistreating some of the carp I caught back then. I'm certain I did so because of bad information propagated by some of the "sporting" magazines of that era. At that time, the "glamour" fish were mainly trout and walleye, and possibly pike and muskies (this was before bass fishing had grown to its present level of popularity), and many writers worried about carp encroaching on their own favorite fisheries. In many areas, carp were widely regarded as trash fish, so they received little, if any, respect.

Thankfully, we now have organizations like CAG to set the record straight, and to promote the respect for, and safe handling of, our own "glamour fish".

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I'd like to put to rest the whole concept of "trash fish". They all have some redeeming qualities, especially native species, but those introduced species as well.

When they get out of balance they can shift an ecosystem, so balance is important.

However, many doomsayers are also just...wrong. Snakeheads have not displaced all other species and started on our pets and children. Walking catfish (remember those?) are not ubiquitous. The Asian carp have filled niches in certain rivers and are a nuisance; catastrophe? I don't know. But they are supposed to be quite tasty!

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The report, "Fishes Especially worthy of Cultivation", can be found here:  https://books.google.com/books?id=WDnOAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA543&lpg=PA543&dq="Fishes+Especially+worthy+of+Cultivation"+carp&source=bl&ots=CtYmFPdK6j&sig=1Rs3huMZLNGIhX0kVuG-d1RAovE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjd3eLUz6HQAhVHhlQKHcZMD18Q6AEIHjAB#v=onepage&q&f=false

On page 543 there begins a section entitled, "THE GERMAN CARP IN THE UNITED STATES."

On page 547, the following table is provided:

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 5.47.52 PM.png

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Thanks so  much, I feel so alone fishing for carp here in Houston, TX. Now I have some ammo to throw back at people when they attack my fish of choice!

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I get skeptical reviews when i talk about carp fishing with other fishermen out on the waters...until I mention the 26 pound mirror and 30 pound common I have caught....then they perk up and want to know more....

Edited by Manosteel

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When asked why I fish for Carp I always ask them how many 30lb fresh water fish they've caught.....there is usually silence

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In all fairness, I do have a 40 pound flathead under my belt....but those are like unicorns....you may go your entire lifetime and never see one

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