Invasive carp, previously known as Asian carp, have been slowly spreading through the Mississippi basin since the 1970s. Originally introduced to aid in aquaculture in the southern states, they escaped due to flooding and have been slowly expanding their range throughout the basin. 

But where are invasive carp currently, and how quickly are they spreading.

The Mississippi River Basin

For the purposes of this article we are using data from the ACRCC, alongside media reports and anecdotal evidence. The Mississippi Basin is broken down into 6 major tributaries 

  • Upper Mississippi River
  • Arkansas River
  • Illinois River
  • Missouri River
  • Ohio River
  • Red River

In addition to these major tributaries there are a series of other tributaries, such as the Wabash, Tennessee, Cumberland, White and Green, among others, which feed the Mississippi system and therefore are susceptible to invasive carp reproduction.

Where are established populations of invasive carp?

Established populations of Bighead and Silver carp species can currently be found in the following states according to ACRCC

  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa

In addition the United States Geological Survey keeps a log of occurrences on their website of Bighead and Silver Carp observations, which indicate invasive carp have been observed in many more states.

According to the ACRCC, these populations are focused on the Ohio, Wabash, Illinois, Tennessee and Cumberland River systems and have been established for over a decade.

Where are invasive carp populations taking hold?

In addition there have been adults found in Alabama and Ohio, with the potential for reproduction. Invasive carp, for example has been found in Pickwick and Wheeler reservoirs in Alabama in 2020, and in June 2021 the Sandusky Register stated that ‘huge numbers of silver carp and bighead carp have spread into virtually all of the Mississippi River tributaries, including the Ohio River and its larger tributaries within Ohio.’

Examples of where invasive carp have been found in smaller numbers

All invasive problems start somewhere, and no Mississippi Basin state is safe from the ever moving threat of invasive carp. Below are examples of reports showing invasive carp being found in states where a few years ago there were no sightings

West Virginia

A record bighead carp was caught by a bow fisherman on the West Virgina/Ohio Border in July 2020


Invasive carp found in Choctaw Creek in Grayson County Texas in July 2021


A 125lb carp was caught by a bowfish in Lake Perry in August 2021 and Bighead carp were removed from other missouri lakes in December 2020


In 2019, an invasive carp fish drive was held at Hanson Lake No. 3 near Plattsmouth


Invasive carp have been found at La Crosse

South Dakota

Carp found in eastern South Dakota

Investigations ongoing

Oklahoma and Arkansas

‘Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are working with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are all currently working with researchers at Texas Tech and Auburn Universities to assess the distribution and population of the carp across the Red River Basin which includes Lake Texoma.’

Early intervention

Understanding the need for early intervention when dealing with invasive species is important. To understand the effect that invasive carp can have on communities, visit our news page or minisite. You can also contact us at [email protected].