Three species of fish could face new regulations as Tennessee officials attempt to limit the spread of Asian carp.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency released its 2019-2020 fishing regulation proposals for public comment last week. Among them is a ban on transporting live skipjack herring, gizzard shad and threadfin shad for commercial fishermen. For sport fishermen, a ban would be placed on transporting the three species of live fish from the Mississippi River and Barkley, Kentucky and Pickwick reservoirs, tributaries or oxbows.
"We're working with other states in the Mississippi basin on carp management plans," TWRA Chief of Fisheries Frank Fiss said. "We're looking at potential vectors for carp moving, and one of those that have been identified in our planning methods is this bait bucket introduction concern."
The three species have been confused with small Asian carp due to their similar appearance, and decision makers worry fisherman will unknowingly spread carp while transporting other fish.
The non-native carp have wreaked havoc on some U.S. waterways, destroying ecosystems and causing injuries, and state leaders are desperately attempting to keep the fish from spreading throughout Tennessee. The fish are moving toward Chattanooga, and one sample below Watts Bar north of Dayton, Tennessee already tested positive for bighead carp, meaning at least a few of the fish are already in the area.
"This proposal would reduce the risk of accidentally introducing Asian carp into new waterways," according to a release from TWRA spokesman Lee Wilmot.
If enacted, the new regulations would become effective March 1, 2019.
Public comment is open until Sept. 14. TWRA commissioners will vote on the proposed changes at the Sept. 20-21 commission meeting in Knoxville. Comments can be made by emailing email@example.com or written to TWRA Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204.
Proposed deregulation in Polk County would provide more fishing opportunities on several creeks.
Fishing will be open daily on Big Lost Creek, Goforth Creek Spring Creek and Greasy Creek after years of regulation restricted fishing on Fridays. The regulations were put in place after fishermen reported a lack of fish in the creeks.
"We're finally at a point where we're not seeing anything differently on those creeks compared to others," Fiss said.
Fiss said TWRA personnel weren't convinced the shortened schedule was having an impact. The deregulation will align the creeks with other state waterways. They will continue to be stocked by TWRA.
STATEWIDE GAFF REGULATION
Statewide, every paddlefish caught with a gaff will now count toward a fisherman's daily limit, even if that fish is released.
The hope is to limit the number of paddlefish injured by gaffs, which regulators see as a harmful way to catch fish.
The daily catch limit for paddlefish is one. By counting gaffed fish, regulators hope fishermen will stop throwing gaffed paddlefish back.
"People were gaffing one, deciding if they like it or don't like it and throwing it out," Fiss said. "Meanwhile [the fish] are bleeding out through the gills."