Another invasive species has made its way into North Dakota.

Last month, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said it confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Lake Ashtabula near Valley City. On Monday, July 1, the department said it collected and verified a bighead carp in the James River near LaMoure during silver carp monitoring efforts.

It's the first report of bighead carp in North Dakota waters. They are established in the lower Missouri River and the James River in South Dakota.

"Higher water levels in the James River this year have facilitated their movements upstream, providing an opportunity for them to enter the state from the South Dakota portions," Game and Fish aquatic nuisance species coordinator Jessica Howell said in a press release.

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The release said Game and Fish staff will continue to sample the James River on a regular basis to monitor the silver and bighead carp populations, as well as to detect any new potential species that migrate during high flows.

“Once established in a large river system they are virtually impossible to eliminate,” Howell said.

The bighead carp and silver carp, also an invasive species, are closely related. Once established they can out-compete native fish in large river systems. They often concentrate below dams, where they drive out desirable fish.


According to the Minnesota Department of Natural resources, "bighead carp are native to southern and central China. 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 and Missouri rivers, where they reproduced and established wild populations. They continue to spread through flood events and through migration within connected river systems."

The fish are prolific and can grow up to 110 pounds. Bighead carp are present in some Minnesota river systems, but are not believed to have reproduced in the state.