The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) had a team here last week studying carp. They electro-shocked a number of the fish and inserted a radio transmitter into their stomachs before releasing them. The purpose was to locate schools of carp and net them to remove them from the lake. The reason for the removal is because the carp are having a negative impact on other species in the lake.
Carp aren’t native to the United States but were introduced here back in the late 1870s. They were brought to California and to Clear Lake in 1880. They were transported here by railroad in a tank car and then by horse-drawn wagons. Today carp can be found in just about all lower-altitude lakes throughout the state. They are the most widely distributed fish in the country. Carp are valued as a food fish in Europe and Asia. Early settlers thought they would also be a desired food fish in America. They are the most widely eaten fish in the world, with more than 200,000 tons consumed annually. Carp provide more protein worldwide than cattle.
Eastern Europe and Asia are the primary areas where carp are a popular food fish, the reason being they are high in protein and low in fat. For many years carp were commercially harvested on Clear Lake and were sold to restaurants in the Bay Area.
Carp are one of the largest members of the minnow family and a close relative of the goldfish. There are a number of physical characteristics that distinguish them from other fish. Most have a bronze-gold to gold-yellow color on the side, though some are more olive to brown. Their belly is generally a faded yellow tone. Lower fins often have a reddish tint. Juvenile and breeding males often have a darker green or gray color with a dark belly. Females tend to be somewhat lighter in color.
Carp have a short head with a rounded snout. They have no front teeth but they do have back molars for chewing. Their sucker-like mouth, which points almost downward, is well adapted to their bottom-feeding habits. In addition, they have two barbels or whiskers on each side of the mouth. Carp can live as long as 50 years but most only live about 20. The common carp can weigh up to 50 pounds and the current world record is 75 pounds although there has been a claim for a fish weighing 100 pounds
Carp have found that Clear Lake is an ideal setting to live and reproduce. They will spawn during spring and summer months. They are fertile spawners, with a single female releasing about 100,000 eggs per pound of body weight. Several males will follow a female into the shallows and thrash around, coaxing her into releasing her eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs, which fall to the bottom and stick to weeds and other underwater structures. The eggs hatch in six to eight days. Neither the male or female guards the eggs and young fry.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) classifies carp as a non-game fish and they are considered a hearty fish. They can survive water temperatures ranging from freezing to more than 90 degrees. There is no daily or size limit and they can be taken by rod and reel or even shot with bow and arrow.
Every few years there is a carp die-off and a few years ago a virus claimed more than 20,000 carp. They aren’t the most popular fish in the lake but they are able to survive when conditions are terrible.