Phil Pash's Great Outdoors

Bubble Curtain Alternative: A new study says an underwater barrier of bubbles and sound waves might perform better than an electric barrier for stopping bighead carp from migrating up the Mississippi River and other waters.

The fence, called a bubble curtain, would divert carp to a holding area where they could be mechanically removed from the river, according to the North American Fishing Club newsletter.

The report rejected an electrical barrier similar to the one near Chicago, citing high construction costs, monthly operating costs and safety concerns. A report by a different company last October suggested an electric barrier across the Mississippi would cost $15 million to $25 million.

The $65,000 study was commissioned by Minnesota, Wisconsin and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a fisherman caught a bighead in Lake Pepin last fall.

The underwater sound-and-bubble barrier would be strung across the river and would use speakers and an air hose. Officials are considering five locations: from Lock and Dam No. 8 south of La Crescent, Minn., to four sites at locks and dams in Iowa.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Illinois are poised to spend as much as $6 million for a new electric fence to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.

Fisheries experts fear the invasive species could decimate the Great Lakes food chain if it slips through the Chicago or Grand Calumet rivers into the lakes.

Currently, a temporary electric fence on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal about 30 miles from Chicago is designed to prevent the voracious carp from threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem and their $4 billion-plus-per-year fishing industry.

Corps officials in a February budget redirected most of the $4.4 million promised for the new fish barrier to projects in Iraq or Afghanistan. When environmentalists and Congress members from the region cried foul, the Corps agreed to reallocate the money to stop the advancing Asian carp with a more permanent electric barrier scheduled to begin construction this spring.

The Corps built an experimental barrier in April 2002 that consists of 13 cables strung along the bottom of the canal near Romeoville, before it connects to the Grand Calumet River. The cables charge the water with electricity to turn back fish while keeping the waterway open to ship traffic.

With another $2 million from the state of Illinois, the Corps announced it plans to complete the $6 million new barrier, designed to last about 20 years, in the fall.

Three Asian carp species—black, silver and bighead—escaped from fish farms along the Mississippi River during floods over the last two decades.

Since then, the carp have eaten their way north to the Illinois River 50 miles from Chicago and crowded out native species in their path.

Asian carp can grow to more than four feet and 60 pounds and consume 40 percent of their body weight per day. They can jump 10 feet out of the water when agitated by boat motors, sometimes striking boaters by accident. But they can’t be caught with a fishing rod because they eat plankton, which serves as the base of the food chain for native fish like bass or walleye.

Biologists predict the carp could cause more ecological damage than other invasive species like the sea lamprey and zebra mussels that they have spent millions to control.

The only direct link between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes is the manmade Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. An unintentional effect of cleaning up the Chicago and Calumet rivers was opening a “gateway” for invasive species to move between the two basins.

“These fish are a disaster waiting to happen for the Great Lakes,” said Mike Conlin, Illinois DNR fisheries chief. “We’ve got to stop them here if we can.”

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The Back Door: While the Corps of Engineers and Illinois are set to start spending $6 million on the permanent electric barrier, and Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Fish and Wildlife Service plan to experiment with a much cheaper sound-and-bubble barrier, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked a key question: What about the back door?

In a probing story you can read at, the Journal Sentinel quotes sources who say Ontario is working on a provincial law preventing the live sale of bighead, but it has yet to pass. Wisconsin tried to do the same thing earlier this year, and the legislation went nowhere. The Wisconsin bill also would have held anyone who releases a bighead liable for the environmental damage they inflict.

Wisconsin isn’t alone in what some see as a lack of legal protections to keep the bighead and other troublesome carp species from slipping into the Great Lakes.

The city of Chicago blocked the sale of live bighead a year ago, but live ones still are legal in the rest of the state, says Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

A newspaper ad last fall, in fact, featured live bighead at the Food Harbor grocery store in Addison for $1.29 a pound. Cheap. Especially considering what they could do to the Great Lakes’ $4.7 billion recreational fishing industry.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is mulling a move to list bighead as an “injurious species” under the Lacey Act. That would make it illegal to transport live bighead across state lines, but so far nothing has been done.

The entire Journal Sentinel story at the above address is recommended reading to better understand this problem.

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Olson Picnic Sunday: Don’t forget the Sunday family picnic in appreciation of Jerry Olson at Four Lakes Forest Preserve, west of Rockford, off Highway 70. The Rock Valley Anglers fishing club of Rockford is coordinating the event.

Jerry, who has cancer, has been an RVA member since the club’s launch in spring 1976. He has held most club offices, including president, and has been a tireless worker for RVA.

All present and past members are invited to attend. The Four Lakes pavilion has been reserved, and setup will start at 10 a.m. Lunch will be at noon, with the club providing hot dogs and hamburgers. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to pass.

Denny Carroll is president of the all-species club, reachable at (815) 988-0298.

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Improving State Parks: Nearly $450,000 in capital improvement funds will be spent on two downstate DNR properties this year—$333,500 for improved access and upgraded facilities at the Prairie Lake campground and day use area at Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, located near Chandlerville in Cass County, and $111,900 to stabilize the Rend Lake shoreline at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in Franklin County, protecting the park’s campground, picnic area and campground boat ramp.

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Games In Madison: Madison, Wis., is going to host the ESPN Great Outdoor Games July 8-11 with the Alliant Energy Center as the center of the major activities. There will be competitions in four outdoor sports disciplines—fishing, sporting dogs, target sports and timber events.

It is the first time the Games will be held in Madison, built on an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota. All events are open to the public free of charge. Find out more at or call (800) 432-8747.

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New Wisconsin Zone: The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has approved expanding a chronic wasting disease (CDW) eradication zone in Rock and Walworth counties, reported the Janesville Gazette.

The goal is to cut the deer population to fewer than five deer per square mile of habitat inside the 45-mile zone, which will stretch from south of Janesville to Highway 120 near Lake Geneva. The southern border will be the state line. The northern border will be Highways 11/14.

The board action expands the 9-mile-by-3-mile eradication zone east of Beloit put in place before the 2003 hunting season, said the Janesville paper.

The Wisconsin DNR said aerial surveys flown over Rock County in January indicate a deer population of about 43 animals per square mile. And that doesn’t cou

nt the May fawns that will increase the deer population by 40-50 percent. This fall, half of those fawns will be pregnant.

The DNR previously sought to kill every deer in the eradication zones, but the goals the Natural Resources Board authorized change the target population to less than five deer per square mile.

In the larger herd reduction zone, the goal is to cut the deer population to 10 deer per square mile of habitat.

The board also approved expanding the herd reduction zone to include all of Rock and Walworth counties outside the eradication zone, and for the first time to include parts of Jefferson, Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha counties.

Testing so far has found 321 wild deer with CWD in Wisconsin. The breakdown by county since 2002: Iowa 180, Dane 127, Rock seven (all 2003), Walworth two (1 in 2003), Sauk two, Columbia one, Kenosha one (in 2003) and Richland one.

Doug Fendry, DNR biologist, said Wisconsin DNR officials now believe the Midwest has two CWD infections. One infection is centered near Mount Horeb, where the disease first was discovered in 2002.

The other is centered near Roscoe in northern Illinois. As of April 5, 62 deer in northern Illinois have tested positive, and Fendry said the 10 deer that have tested positive in Rock, Walworth and Kenosha counties are at the periphery of the Roscoe infection.

Illinois CWD positives still are confined to four counties: Boone 32, Winnebago 22, McHenry four and DeKalb four. Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties border Wisconsin.

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Storm Kills Herons: A mid-April hail storm in northern Wisconsin resulted in the death of more than 100 great blue herons at a rookery—or colony of nests—on an island in the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County.

Wisconsin DNR wildlife staff, following up on a citizen report, made the gruesome discovery April 30 at the rookery on Little Banana Island. They found 106 dead herons and another 11 injured but still alive. Approximately another 50 unharmed herons were observed at the site.

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