LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Don't look now, but an uninvited guest is crashing the Louisville pool party in spectacular fashion. The Asian carp is now taking over waterways in our backyard. After breaking out of confinement in Arkansas, they've been working their way up the Mississippi River and fanning out into the Illinois River, Missouri River, and the Ohio River.
They are wrecking waterways, wiping out the competition, multiplying like rabbits, and they jump like rabbits. Asian carp leap as high as five feet in the air. Somehow, they've managed to make the 1,000 mile trip past locks and dams. Their invasion has reached as far as the Ohio River's Markland Dam.
"There are so many of them that they're out-competing some of our native fish," said Sara Tripp, a Kentucky fisheries biologist.
In waterways they've invaded, Asian carp make up 95 percent of the water environment. We videotaped them leaping where the Salt River meets the Ohio River. Officials have spent $200 million federal tax dollars so far to hold the infestation at bay, to no avail.
Asian carp can grow to be four feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds, but most of them now in the Louisville area are in the 15 to 20 pound range. While they can destroy entire ecosystems, they can also be dangerous. A 20 pound fish flying through the air can knock you out of the boat.
"They jump high out of the water and can jump in the boat, jump into you," said Tripp.
"You notice when they jump, I flinch. I don't want to get hit with one," said David Baker, a fisheries biologist.
Downstream, fish and wildlife workers aren't taking chances.
"They wear helmets," said Tripp. "They also build cages up and around the throttle and steering wheel so whenever they jump they're not breaking the boat."