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Grass Carp


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ctenopharyngodon idella

CHARACTERISTICS: Also known as white amur, grass carp are characterized by a thick, mulletlike body; a small, blunt head; and an anal fin placed on the caudal peduncle and well behind the dorsal fin. Distinct parallel grooves are located on the pharyngeal teeth. The scales are prominently edged in black on the sides and back. Grass carp are generally silvery to olive on the back, grading to white on the venter. See paper by Cuvier and Valenciennes (1844) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: This is a large species, with adults ranging from 2.6 to 4.3 ft (0.8 to 1.3 m) in length.  The current Alabama state angling record is 73 pounds and was caught in Guntersville Reservoir on April 10, 2012. The first Alabama state angling record (70 lb) was caught in Lake Martin on April 12, 1999.

DISTRIBUTION: The grass carp is an exotic species native to the Pacific slope of Asia and imported to the United States in 1963 at Stuttgart, Arkansas (Guillory, 1978). This species is extensively stocked throughout the United States to control aquatic vegetation, and one consequence of the practice has been the grass carp’s rapid proliferation in native waters. The Tennessee Valley Authority, for example, has stocked Guntersville Reservoir with thousands of grass carp fingerlings. Our frequent encounters with grass carp in the Choctawhatchee River are the result of their accidental introduction when the dam of a catfish pond failed and the pond’s contents spilled into the river.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: The grass carp is a large, strong-swimming species that makes spectacular jumps when it is frightened or confined in a small area. Juveniles have been reported to feed on small invertebrates and crustaceans, while adults feed primarily on macroscopic aquatic vegetation, consuming up to their weight in food each day. Growth can be rapid, reaching 20 inches or more each year. Sexually mature individuals spawn in areas of increased velocity in large rivers, producing eggs that are suspended in the water column (Breder and Rosen, 1966). The proliferation of the species is cause for concern. Because the grass carp competes with native species for space and food, and may even destroy fish and wildlife habitat, it could reduce the populations of other fish species. In order to control the species’ population size and its spread throughout southeastern rivers and lakes, stocking is now permitted only with sterile grass carp.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Valenciennes described the grass carp in 1844.

Ctenopharyngodon means comb-like pharyngeal teeth.
Idella is from the Greek word ideo, meaning “distinctive”.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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