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Asian Carp

Learn to identify Asian Carp

Asian Carp

What the WVDNR is doing
How you can help
Do not use Asian Carp as bait
Other resources


Information on Asian Carp

Asian Carp are native to eastern China. They were introduced into the United States for use as biological control in aquaculture ponds and wastewater treatment facilities. They have all since escaped into the Mississippi River Basin, and now pose a threat to West Virginia’s aquatic systems.  They are well-suited to the climate the Ohio River basin, which is similar to that of their native region; biologists expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Ohio River basin.

While not yet established in West Virginia’s waters, two species of Asian carp, the silver and bighead carp pose the greatest threat to our ecosystem. These fish are fast growing and can weigh up to 100 pounds. They are also highly prolific, producing up to one million eggs. They are also voracious feeders. Their diet consists of plankton, aquatic vegetation, aquatic insects and native fish larvae, which puts them in direct competition with native mussels other filter feeders such as the paddlefish and bigmouth buffalo and planktivorous forage fishes like the gizzard shad, threadfin shad and emerald shiner. Nearly all fish feed on zooplankton at some point in their life cycle, thus there is potential for an adverse effect on all fishes in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins.

Additionally, silver carp pose a direct threat to human health due to their propensity to leap high out of the water (up to 10ft.) when disturbed by the sound and vibration of boat motors posing a threat to boats, personal watercraft and their passengers.

In states where they have become established, Asian carp make up as much as 90 percent of the biomass of the entire fish community

The West Virginia section of the Ohio River is close to the leading edge of invasion of the bighead and silver carps, and it is important that we work toward slowing their advances, potentially stopping their invasion into West Virginia waters.

Various Carp photos


Black carp were brought to the US to control snail populations in aquaculture facilities.  Black carp are established in the lower part of the Mississippi River basin, but have not proliferated like the silver or bighead carp. Their diet consists of primarily mussels and snails (up to 3-4lbs a day), which poses a serious threat to the native mollusk and snail species, many of which are threatened or endangered, in the event their populations do spread into the Ohio River Basin.

Black Carp - USGS Leo NicoBlack Carp - USGS Leo Nico

Grass carp are also known as Asian carp. They are commonly used in lakes and ponds as a biological control of unwanted aquatic vegetation.  Diploid grass carp are banned from stocking in West Virginia, but triploid (sterile) grass carp are allowed to be stocked in lakes and ponds with an approved permit.

Grass Carp - USGS John LyonsGrass Carp - USGS John Lyons

Learn how to ID Asian CarpWhat the WVDNR is doing

Managing the threat and spread of such prolific fish species will not be an easy task. The WVDNR has joined forces with the surrounding Ohio River basin states in an effort to slow the spread of Asian carp into the upper Ohio River and to minimize their impact on our ecosystems. This has included steps toward writing and implementing a basin-wide Asian carp action plan, which has been adapted from a national Asian carp action plan. We have also begun coordinated monitoring efforts employing both targeted sampling and eDNA sampling to determine the extent to which these fish have proliferated into WV waters.

How you can help

You can help biologists track the movement of Asian carp by learning to identify them and reporting any sightings or captures. 

If you believe you have seen an Asian Carp in West Virginia waters(including the Ohio River), fill out the Aquatic Invasive Species Reporting Form.


  • Juvenile Asian carp closely resemble the juveniles of common native baitfishes, such as gizzard shad or skipjack herring and can be easily misidentified. It important to be able to distinguish between these species.
  • Be aware and know what’s in your bucket, the identification of minnows and small carp can be confusing
  • DO NOT release baitfish into any body of water
  • Dispose of any unwanted bait into the trash, not into the water
  • When in doubt, throw it out.
Juvenile Asian Carp

Color / Markings Silvery, bigheads with mottled dark blotches (especially on back), upturned mouth
Length: 2 - 4 inches is common bait size
Keel: (Ridge on the underbelly) Prominent, no scales
Scales: Very small (fine)
Eyes: Small, positioned below line extending from tail to snout

Bighead CarpBighead Carp Gizzard ShadGizzard Shad
silver CarpSilver Carp Skipjack HerringSkipjack Herring
Photo credit: Bill Stagnaro; eol.org

Please do not release the fish if you think that it may be an Asian Carp. Silver and bighead carp have been added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's injurious wildlife list (link to Current Injurious Wildlife Species List ). Under this regulation, it is illegal under federal law to import these species into the United States and transport them across state lines. Additionally, West Virginia state law regulates the release of fish and other aquatic organisms into waters of the state.

Other Resources

Please use the following links to learn more about the Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species in surrounding states and what is being done to control them”.

What is eDNA?
Ohio River Basin Action Plan (pdf)
Asian Carp National Plan
USGS website

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