The Healthy Lake Committee of Ninette has been working at bringing the population of carp down in Pelican Lake through netting and removing them from the water body.
Committee Chair, Trevor Maguire, says this is the second phase of their fish assessment and carp eradication which was started last year.
“Last year we did a population assessment on the lake to see all the different kinds of species that were in here. This is now the carp-salvage part of the program. So, we try to figure out how much effort it takes to capture carp, get them out of the lake; what that over-all process looks like in a most efficient way. So far, electro-fishing seems to be winning,” shares Maguire.
By placing electric probes into the water via a special electro-fishing boat, fish are stunned long enough to net them and place them into a holding tank, to be removed to a more desirable location. Maguire says neighboring families have offered to try smoking the carp, and the fish have also been deemed to be composted as field fertilizer.
The common carp is a non-native species of fish in Manitoba. In the other provinces, carp are designated as an invasive species, but they’re so common in Manitoba, they’ve been labelled as ‘non-native’, which is a bit of an oxy-moron as they do in fact, invade a water body.
“They come in and begin to really interfere with the native fishes’ breeding areas,” he explains. “They root them up, they eat vegetation, they destroy stuff, and they’re not a problem in small populations but the problem is that nobody catches carp so the carp are becoming the dominant species.”
A day’s worth of netting can yield about 200 carp, with each one weighing in between 20-40 pounds. This can net out to about 5000 pounds in just one day.
“They’re big,” adds Maguire. “We’ve seen some brutes, some 3 feet long, just big barrels!”
“Simply netting them is not the way to do it! Thirty pounds of an angry fish and you get a few of those in a seine net, you don’t have control anymore. They do,” he laughs.
The project is funded through their ice fishing derby held every year in March, as well as grant money from the Manitoba Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund.
When the water warms, carp begin their spawning. So, the team focuses their efforts on the shallower inlets, shorelines and channels where the carp hang out in the warmer waters.
Eight volunteers per shift, and two shifts a day make for sore muscles! Over the course of the week the team is expecting anywhere between 1500 to 2,000 fish.
“When we’re all done, we’ll come up with an estimate of cost per pound, or cost per hour to get them out, and then try and figure out what is the most cost-efficient way.
“In the future we’re hoping to hold a carp derby,” notes Maguire. “We just have to figure out with the powers-that-be how to license that.”