Head Games

We launched a johnboat from the conservation access point and motored upstream along Big Muddy, upwind, toward a sprawling sand bar a mile away. Our most experienced hand assured us that the river, though deserving of respect and awe, is safe, if one uses his head. Then he told us to duck if a silver carp came flying out of the water at us. Use one’s head, indeed.

The silver carp can grow to the size of a discus, and the weight of a sledgehammer. This presents a problem, because it’s an excitable fish, imbued with the innate urge to high jump fast moving objects, boats and such. These river athletes are pretty accomplished, except, like cannonballs, they cannot change trajectory in mid-flight, not even to avoid human heads that stick up out of boats. Accepting this menace as a river fact of life, we cut a wake to the sand bar. —Coastal Missouri

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