Multi-agency crews deploy netting on November 4 on Bubbly Creek after testing indicated Asian carp DNA in the river water.

Asian Carp Committee Deploys Fish Fighters After DNA Detected in Bubbly Creek

Published November 20, 2019

The foetid waters of the South Branch of the Chicago River (aka Bubbly Creek) recently rippled from a squad of boats sent from state and regional environmental agencies to hunt for Asian carp, an invasive fish that authorities are trying to keep from wreaking havoc on the ecology and fishing industries of the Great Lakes. Alarms sounded at the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) when October sampling for Asian carp DNA in the river environment discovered dozens of positive samples on Bubbly Creek, inspiring an on-the-water hunt for the aggressive fish.

Fortunately, no Asian carp — or any fish — have been found so far in Bubbly Creek, stated a November 8 press release from ACRCC. "At this time, water quality in this area of Bubbly Creek was found to be unlikely to support live fish," the release stated.

Asian carp detection map Chicago Area Waterway System week 20191007The map of October's testing for Asian carp DNA shows many results on Bubbly Creek.The testing for Asian bighead and silver carp took place throughout Chicago-area waterways, with participation from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Biologists deployed nets and conducted electrofishing to survey over 150 sites on bodies of water in and around Chicago.

An Abundance of Caution

The positive detection of Asian carp DNA in Bubbly Creek could come from sources other than live fish, the ACRCC release stated, including "wildlife that may feed upon Asian carp and travel into or through the area, as well as DNA that may be on boat hulls or water transported by vessels." Dead bighead carp and silver carp from local markets could also cause a positive result, the release said.

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“This sampling and assessment effort, done out of an abundance of caution, will be similar to that which would be used if a live Asian carp had been captured as outlined in the ACRCC’s Contingency Response Plan,” said Kevin Irons, manager of the IDNR Aquatic Nuisance Species Program. “It’s important to note that [environmental DNA] doesn’t mean bighead or silver carp are in Bubbly Creek, or that a reproducing population exists above the electrical barriers.”

Sources noted that stormwater overflows from the Racine Avenue Pumping Station at the headwaters of Bubbly Creek, which forms the east border of the McKinley Park neighborhood, preceded the October testing. They conjectured that this may have been the cause of the positive Asian carp DNA results.

Weather Delay

The multi-agency task force had to suspend its two weeks of fish hunting on the river due to last week's freezing temperatures, the ACRCC press release said, but planned to be back on the river November 18-22 to continue their dragnet against the destructive fish.

After the fish hunt concludes on November 22, the IDNR and the ACRCC will provide updates and results on the ACRCC website at, the ACRCC release stated.

“The risk of Asian carp arriving to Lake Michigan remains low," Irons said. “Increased monitoring around the electric dispersal barrier near Romeoville in 2019 has not indicated any Asian carp in the area.”

Bubbly Creek Asian Carp patrol boats Chicago downtown 20191104
Part of the flotilla of boats hunting Asian carp on Bubbly Creek begins its trip south from the confluence of Bubbly Creek and the Chicago River on November 4, 2019.

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