February 28, 2012
That's Defuniak Springs angler Craig Martin with what authorities are pretty certain is a bighead carp (Hypophtalmichtys nobilis). Martin said he caught the fish last week, on Feb. 20, in the Mitchell River, part of the Choctawhatchee River delta east of Destin, Florida. The scale he's weighing the fish on is at the Harbor Walk Marina, where Florida Sportsman has filmed a number of television episodes.
The story is going to be unfolding as the week goes on... we're committed to figuring out the history behind the spread of bighead carp into Florida. The fish are native to central and southern China, and were first introduced into the U.S. in 1972 through an Arkansas fish farmer, who figured the algae-eating carp could be used to keep fish ponds clean. Several other fish farmers have imported the species, and through floods and other mishaps, the carp have spread into the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio river basins. They're now reproducing in some of those waterways. Bighead carp have been found in or along 18 states, according to the United States Geological Service (USGS), and there've been scattered reports in Florida, including one fish captured at the Deer Point spillway on St. Andrews Bay, in 1994. The timing of that fish is interesting, as Florida Sportsman is now exploring the impacts of episodic flooding during the early and mid 1990s, when fish farms in lower Alabama may have seen escapement of these and other fish. It's known that Auburn University (no jokes, please) has studied the use of bighead carp as a utility in fish farming.
Is Martin's bighead carp a holdover from the spillover in the 1990s?
Stay posted to the Fresh Water site this week as we piece together this mystery!