Family:Cyprinidae (minnows) in the order Cypriniformes (carps, minnows and loaches)
Large-bodied with small scales and scattered, irregular dark blotches over the entire body. Large head with upturned mouth and eyes on underside of head looking down. Ventral (belly) keel extends from pelvic fins to vent (anus).
Size:Length: 12-24 inches; weight: 12-15 pounds (maximum 48 inches and 80 pounds).
Habitat and conservation:Large rivers and the lower reaches of their tributaries, floodplain pools, reservoirs and reservoir tailwaters. Department of Conservation managers are concerned that bighead and silver carp may have an impact on populations of native plankton feeders like paddlefish and gizzard shad. The Department and the U.S. Geological Survey are studying the threat of Asian carp and plan to develop some methods to control the populations of these fish.
Foods:Bighead carp feed on plankton strained from the water. They also eat larger plankton than silver carp, including zooplankton and algae. Bighead carp compete for food with native planktivores, such as paddlefish, bigmouth buffalo and the young of many other desirable native fishes.
Distribution in Missouri:Large rivers and lakes throughout Missouri: The Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and lower reaches of their major tributaries (such as the Osage); and tailwaters of Bagnell Dam (on the Osage) and Cannon Dam (on the Salt River).
Status:Aggressive non-native invasive species. Illegal to use as live bait but may be used as dead or cut bait.
Life cycle:In rivers, spawning is triggered by a rise in water level. Bighead carp are not known to successfully spawn in ponds or lakes. Eggs are semi-buoyant and suspend in the river current.
Human connections:Introduced to remove excessive nutrients in waste treatment and fertilized fish ponds, this species has become an aggressive nuisance. However, its meat is delicious, and many anglers enjoy it pan-fried, deep-fried, grilled, baked, steamed, smoked, in curries, in soup and pickled.
Ecosystem connections:Bighead and silver Asian carp are invasive exotic species and serve no beneficial ecosystem purpose in Missouri.