Light Trapping Reveals Multiple Bigheaded Carp Spawns Upstream of Lock and Dam 19 in the Upper Mississippi River

Boone M. La Hood, Tyler C. Thomsen, Allison W. Lenaerts, Madeline G. Tomczak, Emily A. Szott, Zebadiah Woiak, Kyle M. Von Ruden, Katherine D. Bockrath, Kevin S. Irons, James T. Lamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Silver Carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and Bighead Carp H. nobilis are two species of invasive bigheaded carp currently invading North American rivers and watersheds. Bigheaded carp were accidentally introduced into the lower Mississippi River basin in the early 1970s and have since invaded many water bodies in the Midwestern United States. Evidence of bigheaded carp reproduction and recruitment in the upper Mississippi River upstream of Lock and Dam 19 (LD19) at Keokuk, Iowa, thought to be a critical constriction point to their upstream establishment, has been limited to a few isolated detections of eggs, larvae, and juvenile life stages since 2012. Therefore, a more comprehensive assessment of bigheaded carp reproduction in this critical management zone was needed. We used quadrafoil light traps (n = 1,387) deployed during May–September 2016–2018 in Pools 17–19 of the Mississippi River to monitor for advanced larval bigheaded carp in low-velocity habitats. Throughout the sampling period, we captured 1,747 larval and 35 postlarval bigheaded carp (N = 1,782). Bigheaded carp were collected on 15 sampling events that spanned from May 31, 2016, to September 13, 2018, with associated hatch dates estimated to represent 10 unique reproductive events from May 2016 to September 2018. The individual captures and backdated hatch estimates revealed a protracted spawning period of up to seven events in 2016, one event in 2017, and two events in 2018. Bigheaded carp were only captured in Pool 19, possibly due to the drifting requirements for egg maturation and the low-velocity downstream reach of Pool 19. This research provides confirmation that bigheaded carp spawned upstream of LD19 are capable of transitioning past the yolk sac stage upstream of this bottleneck to more advanced larval stages. Knowledge of reproduction and larval retention and the field-based evidence of protracted spawning fill critical research gaps needed for the management of bigheaded carp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-91
Number of pages11
JournalNorth American Journal of Fisheries Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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