Meet the angler whose tip led to finding a Lake Calumet silver carp & ways to report such sightings
Cody Bertrand’s sighting while practicing for an Angler’s Choice tournament on Lake Calumet led to the finding and removal of a 22-pound silver carp; plus a primer on what to do in such cases.
Roller waves tossed Cody Bertrand in his Nitro boat as we talked Tuesday. He was practicing smallmouth bass fishing on Lake Michigan.
“Just out here messing around a little bit on drop shots and finesse worms,” he said.
Similar to July 26 when he was practicing on Lake Calumet for an Angler’s Choice tournament. Only then, Bertrand, 24, of Dyer, Indiana, spotted a leaping invasive silver carp.
“I was just idling through a grass flat, had the engine trimmed up and looking at the conditions,” he said. “There was no doubt in my mind. I was kind of like instantly, `That was no buffalo or grass carp; Asian carp, no doubt.’ “
That he knew isn’t surprising. Silver carp gained international notoriety with videos and photographs of their spectacular leaping. Vibrations from boat motors can trigger the jumping of silvers, so that it happened while he idled across a grass flat is not surprising.
He also knew to report the sighting.
“I have a lawn-care business, and one of my customers is a biologist for the Army Corps,” he said. “It just worked out that I know someone to contact. I didn’t want to be crying wolf. But I am a credible source.”
No, he wasn’t crying wolf.
“It was pretty nuts,” Bertrand said. “We had a tournament [on July 30] and had another jump in Lake Calumet.”
His report set in motion an emergency response by authorities.
On Aug. 4, gill-netting and electro-fishing crews from Illinois Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers collected a 38.3-inch silver carp, weighing about 22 pounds.
“They shocked it 50 yards from the pin I sent him,” Bertrand said.
That’s the third time an invasive carp has been captured in that area. A silver was caught in 2017 below the T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam. In 2010, a bighead was captured in Lake Calumet.
Chicago is the final stop to keep bigheads and silvers from reaching the Great Lakes. The IDNR is rebranding them as copi.
By any name they do not fit Bertrand’s dream — they’re more nightmare — of making the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Bertrand fishes the local tournaments on Lake Michigan and in central and southern Indiana, and he has been fishing the Bassmaster Opens. His best finish came when he won the 2016 Northern Open in Virginia.
“Been trying to qualify for the Elite Series the last six or seven years,” he said. “I am trying to support my fishing through my lawn-care business. I have a big open coming up on Chesapeake Bay in September.”
Not everybody has a customer who works for the Army Corps, so what should you do if you think you saw or caught a bighead or silver in an unusual place?
“Reach out to us, any of the social channels/emails,” messaged Kevin Irons, Illinois’ assistant fisheries chief and previously the longtime front man for invasive species. “We take all seriously and many can be resolved on phone. Have a photo if possible.”
You can also email Dnr.firstname.lastname@example.org.
“And, Dale, always reaching out to the counties biologist [number in Fish Digest] gets a welcome ear,” he added.
In Illinois, hundreds of thousands of anglers are on the water far more often than all the official biologists combined. Angler ears and eyes matter greatly.
“I was just glad I was able to do something about it,” Bertrand said.
More on invasive carp and the Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee is at invasivecarp.us.