Restoration plans for Metzger Marsh, a coastal wetland on the south shore of western Lake Erie, incorporated a fish-control system designed to restrict access to the wetland by large common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Ingress fish passageways in the structure contain slots into which experimental grates of varying size and shape can be placed to selectively allow entry and transfer of other large fish species while minimizing the number of common carp to be handled. We tested different sizes and shapes of grates in experimental tanks in the laboratory to determine the best design for testing in the field. We also tested northern pike (Esox lucius) because lack of access to wetland spawning habitat has greatly reduced their populations in western Lake Erie. Based on our results, vertical bar grates were chosen for installation because common carp were able to pass through circular grates smaller than body height by compressing their soft abdomens; they passed through rectangular grates on the diagonal. Vertical bar grates with 5-cm spacing that were installed across much of the control structure should limit access of common carp larger than 34 cm total length (TL) and northern pike larger than 70 cm. Vertical bar grates selected for initial field trials in the fish passageway had spacings of 5.8 and 6.6 cm, which increased access by common carp to 40 and 47 cm TL and by northern pike to 76 and 81 cm, respectively. The percentage of potential common carp biomass (fish seeking entry) that must be handled in lift baskets in the passageway increased from 0.9 to 4.8 to 15.4 with each increase in spacing between bars. Further increases in spacing would greatly increase the number of common carp that would have to be handled. The results of field testing should be useful in designing selective fish-control systems for other wetland restoration sites adjacent to large water bodies.
Additional publication details
Passing of northern pike and common carp through experimental barriers designed for use in wetland restoration