Unified method of fishing

In January 2018, the Missouri Department of Conservation deployed the so-called “unified method” at Creve Coeur Park Lake in St. Louis County to help eradicate the invasive Asian carp population. Sometime next month, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and federal partners will try the method on Kentucky Lake and possibly Lake Barkley.

Perhaps the most significant battle yet in the war on Asian carp in western Kentucky will take place in a few weeks on the lakes.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) along with numerous federal partners will be utilizing a harvest technique called the "unified method" to remove fish from major waterways. Under the strategy, the invasive fish will be systematically driven into a confined area using modern technology in order to be removed by the tons with netting.

"It's a big job," said Ron Brooks, aquatic nuisance species program director for KDFWR.

Brooks said the method will involve eight boats for sound, electrofishing and netting; a barge; a fish pump; and other high-tech equipment on the water and shore. Electrical and acoustic stimulation is deployed in the water to drive and corral the fish into confined areas. The Asian carp is more responsive to these stimuli than other species like sport fish, making them easy targets for eradication.

"As the carp are driven toward shore by sound and electricity, they will be funneled into channels constructed by placement of block nets," reads Bassmaster.com article posted Jan. 6. "And once trapped, they will be netted or pumped out, employing equipment typically used for commercial salmon harvest."

The method, long utilized by Chinese fishermen, has been used with success in Missouri and Illinois. It was used two years ago on Missouri's Creve Coeur Lake to remove 119 tons of carp, an estimated 85 percent of the unwanted population, from the body.

Brooks said the unified method will first take place on Kentucky Lake, and if time allows, on Lake Barkley.

"This will not hurt our commercial fishermen," Brooks told Bassmaster.com.

In fact, plans should permit people to take the fish for free if they are able to transport them to meal plants. This will keep the harvest from being dumped in landfills.

"With coordination among several agencies at all levels, we can help protect Kentucky's treasured waters, support our boaters and anglers, and bolster western Kentucky's $1.2 billion fishing economy," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's most senior lawmaker in Washington, D.C., who helped secure funding for the effort.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies will partner to head the effort. Local volunteers will also be used to help protect Kentucky's fragile waterways critically important to the economic health of the area.

"There will be several boats, lots of nets and commercial fishermen involved … probably be a 10- to 12-day work period," said Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White.