By MIKE CORN
GOODLAND -- The time might be right to enhance the state's approach to dealing with the spread of aquatic nuisance species such as the zebra mussel, which has already been found at Wilson Lake.
It's the more dramatic Asian carp -- seen in videos jumping from the water -- that spurred Jason Goeckler to reach that conclusion when he appeared before the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission Oct. 14 in Goodland.
Commissioner Gerald Lauber wanted to know how close the department might be on presenting a set of regulations to the commission.
"I think what we'll probably do is bring some proposed language to the January meeting," said KDWP Secretary Mike Hayden.
What form those changes might take is still uncertain, although dramatic differences might in the offing because of the Asian carp threat.
They're so bad that Goeckler offered to take any of the commissioners for a boat ride on the Kansas River, but he cautioned that everyone would have to wear a life jacket and a helmet.
The helmet is to protect against the leaping silver carp that can weigh 30 to 40 pounds apiece -- guaranteed to hurt if they leap up as a boat is passing by.
But there's also the bighead carp, which, although it doesn't leap out of the water, can reach 100 pounds in size.
Both are voracious feeders, possessing big appetites that could force out other sport fish if they were to gain a foothold in any of the state's reservoirs.
So far, they're primarily a problem of far eastern Kansas, kept at bay from spreading west by dams that they simply can't get over.
A single Asian carp has been found in a Kiowa County farm pond, and it's likely to have gotten there accidentally, when fish were stocked in the pond.
But it's not just Asian carp that are the concern. There's also the zebra mussel, or the white perch, both of which are in Wilson Lake.
The concern is that anglers might gather up a bucket full of carp to use as bait for catfish, and ultimately dump the remains of the bucket into whatever body of water they're fishing in.
While that's currently illegal, Goeckler said the law's perhaps not as clear as it should be.
There's also the concern that anglers have a difficult time identifying fish species, and the carp "are similar in appearance to gizzard shad," he said.
This also might be the time to enact rules to ensure that bait dealers are certified, providing bait not commingled with nuisance species or free from disease.
"Right now, Kansas is a bit open to these things coming in," Goeckler said of the host of fish diseases that are of concern.
When 71 percent of the angler use purchased baits, that's an important supply, he said.
In other business the commission:
* The commission adopted a revised camping permit fee. Annual camping permits would increase by $50 in the off season and $100 in the prime season. The increase would add $235,000 to the park fee fund.
* Adopted new guidelines for spring turkey season. More than 42,000 permits and 23,000 game tags are expected to be issued in 2011.
* Adopted fees for state lakes where cabins are located. The change in cabin fees is not expected to have an appreciable economic effect.
* Adopted a fee schedule that is designed to boost license sales for hunters who purchase two permits together. It also is designed to get more antlerless permits in the field, which would reduce or stabilize the state's deer herd.