Kudzu Fish of the Mississippi

 
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Posted: 29 June 2011 2h17
Updated: Jun 29, 2011 15h34
by Walt Grayson

TUNICA COUNTY, MS
About five years ago, we took an airboat ride on the Mississippi River at Tunica.

Tunica Queen Airboat

Tunica Queen Airboat

The story is about the boat ride. But we literally ran into the “Kudzu Fish of the Mississippi,” Asian Carp. I call them Kudzu because they spread so fast and are absolutely useless. And I run this story again because, as I understand it, these worthless fish are now as far south as Vicksburg. It is to river travel what a helicopter is to air travel, up close and fast. The airboats at Tunica run during the warm months, April 1st through October, depending on the weather. Our pilot was Captain Don Lancaster.

Walt: Don, how long have you been doing airboats?

Don: This is my first trip. (laughter)

Airboats about 15 years, I’ve been running passenger boast about 30 years.

Walt: What got you interested in air boats?

Don: I made the mistake of riding one about 15 years ago and have been in love with them ever since.

Walt: What is it you like about them?

Don: They’ll go anywhere you want to go and they’ll even go some places you don’t want to go.

Walt: Tell me what you’re thinking when you’re out there on the river?

Well, safety’s first. But I go out by myself a lot of times. I’m out there where Samuel L. Clemens used to be, that’s Mark Twain. That’s the same river, the same spot that he passed by quite a few times a month. That’s what I think about. The old days, the steamboat days.

Walt: How do passengers take to the air boat. I’m sure they must love it.

Don: They are crazy about it. We’ve never had a complaint. They love it. Some man will come down here on Saturday to ride the boat and her he comes on Sunday with his wife and two kids to do it again.

Riding the airboat isn’t hazard free, however. There is a pesky fish that has taken over the Mississippi River, that’s fun to watch off at a distance, the Asian Carp. Can’t eat them. Their natural defense when alarmed is to jump out of the water. Boat motors alarm them. And sometimes they jump right out in front of you. And in with you. But then again, if the fish just flies over you and hits someone else, then its all the funnier. Mark Twain, as a young boy, had his rafts to explore the Mississippi with. We have them, too. With 500 horse power motors to get us there and back quickly. But, carp or not; ultimately, its still the river that’s the draw. Skimming across the back of the mightiest river in America matches the rush of the boat you’re doing it in.