Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)

Photo of silver carp jumping out of the water.

Description

Appearance

The silver carp is a large filter feeding fish that can weigh up to 90 pounds and grow to 50 inches. They are silver in color and can be greenish on their back. If startled by the sounds of watercraft, silver carp can jump up to 10 feet out of the water.

Body Shape and Fins

The average silver carp caught in Minnesota is 33 inches and 18 pounds. They have tiny scales on their body, and no scales on their heads. Their eyes are low-set below the mouth. They have large upturned mouths without barbels or teeth. There is a long keel that extends in front and behind the pelvic fins.

Biology

The silver carp is a filter feeding fish that becomes sexually mature between four and six years old. They spawn when water temperatures are between 62.5°F and 79°F, and require flowing water for reproduction.

Origin and Spread

Silver carp are native to eastern Asia. The species was imported from China to the United States during the early 1970s to help fish aquaculture operations and improve water quality in retention ponds/sewage lagoons. Large flood events allowed the species to escape into the Mississippi River, where they reproduced and established wild populations. They continue to spread through flood events and through migration within connected river systems.

Wild populations of silver carp exist in the United States. No established populations are known in Minnesota, although individual fish have been caught in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. There is no evidence of silver carp reproduction in Minnesota waters. Refer to the infested waters list for current distribution.

Don't be fooled by these look-alikes

 

Regulatory Classification

The silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) is a prohibited invasive species in Minnesota, which means it is unlawful (a misdemeanor) to possess, import, purchase, transport, or introduce this species except under a permit for disposal, control, research, or education.

 

Threat to Minnesota Waters

Silver carp cause recreational, economic and ecological damage—changing how residents and visitors use and enjoy Minnesota waters.

Silver carp impacts:

  • Compete with native mussels, larval fishes, and paddlefish for similar food sources (plankton).
  • Can jump up to 10 feet out of the water when startled. They often jump into boats and injure boaters, personal watercraft operators, and water skiers.

 

What you should do

People spread silver carp primarily through the improper use and disposal of live bait, as juveniles are difficult to distinguish from gizzard shad and other native baitfish. If introduced, they can spread on their own through connected waterways.

Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires water recreationists to:

  • Clean watercraft of all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • Dry docks, lifts, swim rafts and other equipment for at least 21 days before placing equipment into another water body.

Report new occurrences of silver carp to the DNR immediately by taking a photo and making arrangements with the DNR to transport the carp to the nearest fisheries office.

To keep invasive carp for personal use, download the Special Permit to Possess Prohibited Invasive Species of Carp.

 

Monitoring and Control Methods

The DNR has a monitoring and removal crew that conducts standardized and random sampling to detect, monitor, and remove invasive carp from Minnesota waters, including larval stages to adults. Survey efforts and capture events can be found in the MN DNR annual invasive carp report.

The invasive carp action plan guides the DNR’s efforts in controlling invasive carp. The plan lays out actions to assess population expansion of invasive carp and describes efforts to prevent and/or minimize their impact in Minnesota.

 

Resources