Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Tennessee
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Tennessee Project

Relative Population Densities of Asian Carp in the Tennessee River and Cumberland River drainages

January 2017 - June 2022


Participating Agencies

  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Asian carp (AC) are increasingly expanding within multiple Tennessee river systems, but knowledge of current distributions and abundance is lacking. Bighead carp have been observed in the Tennessee waters of the Cumberland River and Tennessee River for at least 10 years. Silver carp were first observed in Tennessee waters in ~2008, but they were not observed in the headwaters of the lowermost reservoirs in each river system until ~ 2012. Sporadic sampling by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency commenced in 2013 and provided some information on where AC occurred in the Tennessee River, Cumberland River, and their tributaries. All empirical and anecdotal evidence points to a rapid expansion of AC upstream in both river systems and into their tributaries and successful reproduction by silver carp in the headwaters of Kentucky Lake. Unlike other locales in the Ohio River basin, a paucity of information exists on AC in the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems. Accompanying this relative lack of information on AC in Tennessee is a deficit in our understanding of where to direct commercial fishing activity and other measures to slow the spread of AC and reduce their potential impact on native fish and mussel assemblages. The objectives of this project are to (1) assess spatial variation in relative abundance of AC in the main basins of two Tennessee River impoundments (Kentucky and Pickwick lakes) and two Cumberland River impoundments (Barkley and Cheatham lakes); (2) develop indices of AC abundance in the headwaters (i.e., dam tailwaters) of those four impoundments, which are proximal sources for further upstream invasion; (3) evaluate tailwater sampling efficiency and relate tailwater AC indices to AC catches in the main basins; and (4) sample additional tailwaters within the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems where the status of AC is unknown to further delineate the leading edge of AC in the waters of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.