Water crews herding and netting invasive carp on the Upper Mississippi near La Crosse

In March of last year, commercial fishermen netted 51 invasive Asian carp in the river near La Crosse, the largest catch in our area to date

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Populations of invasive carp are growing in the Upper Mississippi River.

In March of last year, commercial fishermen netted 51 invasive Asian carp in the river near La Crosse, the largest catch in our area and statewide to date, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Some of us just love to fish so much, that we can never get enough of it.

“I’m supposed to be home right now instead of fishing,” Sparta fisherman Gary Gawrysiak said.

You could see Gary reeling in some blue gills right off the beach on the Upper Mississippi Thursday morning.

“This is one of favorite places to come fishing,” Gary said.

But his favorite fishing spot is getting crowded.

“I was pretty much unaware that they were in the river right now, until I seen all these boats coming down here this morning,” Gary said.

Crews in 10 boats are herding and netting Asian carp using what’s called a Modified Unified Method.

“What we’re attempting to do is assess how many silver and bighead carp are out in certain sections of the Mississippi River,” Jordan Weeks of the Wisconsin DNR Mississippi River Fish Team said.

Weeks says commercial fishermen have caught more of these types of Asian carp in recent years.

“And it’s a little bit concerning,” Weeks said.

Years ago, private fish farms in the South that contained Asian carp flooded. They’ve been swimming north ever since.

“Any time you have invasive species that move into an area, there’s potential to push out the native species,” Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge visitors service manager Hallie Rasmussen said.

If all of those animals get pushed out, that spells trouble for their environment.

“It changes the whole dynamic of the ecosystem,” Rasmussen said.

And fishing becomes more dangerous.

“If you’re driving a boat motor and you come across a large school of these things, they may jump out of the water,” Weeks said.

Weeks says silver carp can weigh up to 20 pounds.

“Individuals could get hit with these fish and potentially become injured,” Weeks said.

Any netted carp will be studied and put down, and the native fish will be tossed back.

“We’re looking to get ahead of these invasive carp,” Weeks said.

If the native fish are pushed out from the river, so is the fishing.

“You’d have to go to inland lakes I suppose,” Gary said.

Which could be the only choice Gary has in the future.

If you end up catching silver or bighead carp, do not throw them back. Weeks says they are safe to eat.

The studies are being done in a partnership between the Wisconsin and Minnesota DNR, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.