Asian carp invade Will County Forest Preserve lake
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org February 6, 2013 2:20PM
People head out on a boat while at Rock Run Rookery Preserve Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 7:37AM
The Will County Forest Preserve District is gearing up to battle a new invasive species — the dreaded Asian carp.
Testing at Rock Run Rookery showed an 84-acre lake on Youngs Road south of Route 6 in Joliet is chock full of the non-native bottom feeders.
The infiltration was first reported in the fall by a fisherman who caught a carp and emailed the district a picture of Public Enemy No. 1, said spokesman Bruce Hodgdon. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources confirmed the find in November.
The discovery is not alarming, because IDNR knows Asian carp are in that area of the Des Plaines River, said Kevin Irons, aquatic nuisance species program manager for the department. But it is a troubling find because IDNR has drawn a line in the sand at the Interstate 55 bridge and it doesn’t want Asian carp migrating farther north.
“It’s a priority for us and we will be in there,” Irons said. “We found them and now we’ve got to get them out.”
Physical and electric barriers have been erected in the Lockport and Romeoville areas to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan, where they would wreak havoc on native species.
The Asian carp are getting into the Rock Run Rookery’s lake via a channel dug from the lake to the Des Plaines River when the property was a quarry. The channel won’t be filled in because there is recreational value to it for canoeists, said forest preserve district Executive Director Marcy DeMauro.
On Wednesday, a forest preserve district committee gave preliminary approval to a no-cost carp management plan that will involve help from IDNR and a commercial harvest.
If the plan gets final approval from the full board on Feb. 14, fishermen would catch the carp with nets and the fish would be ground up into fertilizer. Native fish accidentally trapped in the nets will be thrown back into the lake.
Irons said IDNR would like to start the program this spring. In the past two years, IDNR has harvested almost 1.5 millions pounds of Asian carp between Morris and Starved Rock.
The lake is home to bluegill, bass and walleye that would suffer if they have to compete with Asian carp for plankton, Irons said. During winter months, the carp seek refuge in the lake because it’s spring fed, which provides enough oxygen when the lake is iced over.
“It’s like they’re going into a cozy igloo,” DeMauro said.
This is just the latest battle the district plans to wage against flora that doesn’t belong in its preserves. The board also will be asked to approve several invasive species eradication contracts to control garlic mustard, buckthorn, honeysuckle, reed canary grass and other weeds that choke out native species.
DeMauro said the district spends about $250,000 a year on such programs. Not every weed or invasive tree can be eliminated, DeMauro said. So the district uses a triage approach to target the most destructive invaders.
Homo sapien pests
While Asian carp, weeds and non-native trees can be controlled, there is one more invasive species the district has a harder time with, DeMauro said.
Vandals continue to destroy district property by stealing cameras, setting fire to toilet paper rolls and crashing into gates and poles.
They also steal signs — lots and lots of signs.
“I think people put them in their garages, basements and their dens,” she said.
Vandalism cost the district $23,805 last year.
The best approach to thwart human invaders is to be patient and repair damage as soon as it occurs, DeMauro said. For some new preserves, vandalism erupts shortly after they open then dies down.
DeMauro has a theory for why that happens.
The culprits “either grow up and move away or they just get tired of doing it,” she said.