LYON COUNTY — The fish were jumping Monday morning in Pisgah Bay on Kentucky Lake. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife showed off the Modified Unified Method to capture the invasive Asian carp species that have taken over Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley over the past five years.

As the invasive species has grown, the population of game fish has gone down as a result. Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White said Monday that it has started to affect the lake region’s tourism.

White thanked U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for helping secure federal funding to begin the removal process.

“This Asian carp problem is absolutely jeopardizing our $1.2 billion fishing industry,” McConnell said.

McConnell said that last year he brought western Kentucky officials and officials from President Donald Trump’s administration together to discuss the Modified Unified Method. In December 2019, McConnell announced $25 million in federal funds allocated to fighting the invasive species.

The Modified Unified Method is conducted in multiple phases. First, block nets are used to create cells of water for fish to be driven into.

Electrofishing boats and boats equipped with underwater speakers are used to herd large schools of carp into and eventually out of each cell. Once the cell is cleared, another net is placed behind the school to prevent the fish from returning.

The process is repeated over and over, until the fish are cornered into the harvesting area. On Monday, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife for the first time used a large vacuum to suck the fish out of the harvesting area, instead of hauling the school out of the water with a net and crane.

According to the United State Geological Survey, native game fish do not respond to the sounds from the boat’s underwater speakers the same as Asian carp. While Asian carp swim away from the sound, native fish tend to hide.

Over the last few weeks, the Modified Unified Method has harvested more than 17,000 pounds of Asian carp from Kentucky Lake, McConnell said. Those fish go to the Kentucky Fish Center to be processed and sold.

In 2019, the Kentucky Fish Center processed around 6 million pounds of Asian Carp. For 2020, the center set a goal of 8 million pounds processed.

Asian Carp State Fisheries Director Ron Brooks said that there are still hundreds of thousands of pounds of Asian carp still in the nets to be harvested.

Gov. Andy Beshear said that the implementation and success of the Modified Unified Method shows what can get done when federal, state and local governments get behind the same cause.

“Right now in Frankfort, we’re talking a lot about ‘Team Kentucky,’ ” Beshear said. “It’s about when we put differences, party — anything that separates us — aside and address the challenges that are in front of us and meet the needs of our people.”

White said that he was happy with the results of the program so far. He said that local anglers have told him that they have begun to see a difference in the lake already.

“This has been a good day for us,” he said. “But a bad day for carp.”

Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or jrusselburg@kentuckynewera.com.

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