Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica Houtt.) is an invasive Asian plant abundant along rivers in its introduced range. In riparian areas, floods and ice flows uproot the rhizomes, facilitating their dissemination downstream. Control of large, well-established R. japonica clones in riparian areas is difficult if the use of herbicides is prohibited. An alternative to controlling entrenched clones is the rapid detection and manual unearthing of rhizome fragments that have recently rooted after being deposited by floodwaters. We applied this strategy along a Canadian river where spring floods with abundant ice are recurrent. Two river stretches, with approximately 10 km of shoreline each, were selected for the fragment removal campaign. One of the stretches was heavily invaded by R. japonica, while the other was only sparsely invaded. In the heavily invaded stretch, 1,550 and 737 R. japonica rhizome fragments were unearthed in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Unearthed fragments had an average length of 27 to 32 cm. Only 21 fragments were found in the sparsely invaded stretch in 2020. Despite similar distances being surveyed, the detection and unearthing took 62% less time (overall) in the sparsely invaded than in the heavily invaded stretch. Along sparsely invaded riverbanks, a rapid response removal campaign for R. japonica cost, including transportation and labor, an estimated Can$142 (US$105) per aborted clone (i.e., fragment removed). A rapid response removal campaign is economically advantageous compared with the hypothetical eradication of large, well-established clones, but for it to be cost-effective, the time spent locating rhizome fragments must exceed the time spent unearthing them. The question is not whether rapid response unearthing is economically feasible—it is—but rather what invasion level renders the intervention practicable. In highly invaded river stretches generating thousands of fragments annually, finding and removing these fragments year after year would require a massive, unsustainable effort.