cpb-logo

Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.

From Carp to Pig-Hide: Bait Shortage Means Change for Lobsters’ Diet

McDonald is the proprietor of First Rate Bait in Alton, Maine. Photo by Jennifer Mitchell for Maine Public

McDonald is the proprietor of First Rate Bait in Alton, Maine. Photo by Jennifer Mitchell for Maine Public

Gulf of Maine lobstermen are casting around far and wide for new kinds of bait, now that federal regulators have cut herring quotas by 70 percent. Possible solutions range from the mass importation of a nuisance fish from the Midwest, to manufactured baits to pig hides.

Fisheries managers estimate a 50-million pound “herring gap” in Maine over the next year. To help close it, they are turning to colleagues in Illinois.

On a rainy fishing day in the Illinois River, state invasive species coordinator Kevin Irons oversees the capture of dozens of fish — all freshwater carp, which were introduced to the Mississippi Basin decades ago. They have proliferated at an epic scale, crowding out native fish and damaging ecosystems.

“The big-head, the silvers and the grass carp, you also see some of the common carp — I like to call them Grampa’s carp, they’ve been around a long time,” says Irons. “You’ve got four different species of invasive fish here.”

Visit Maine Public for the full story.