Public Release: 

Sea Grant asking anglers to collect sea lampreys for Lake Champlain study

National Sea Grant College Program

Plattsburgh, NY Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Project and New York Sea Grant would like anglers¹ assistance in collecting sea lampreys from Lake Champlain in 2002 and 2003.

The non-native fish that feed on the blood and body fluids of large fishes important to the sportfishing industry will be studied to help optimize planned control of the parasitic fish which have had a devastating impact on native fish populations in Lake Champlain and in the Great Lakes.

"By bringing the lamprey in, anglers can make a significant contribution to research that will improve our understanding about sea lamprey ecology and how managers can best exploit any weak spots in the sea lamprey life cycle. This work will help support the recently adopted Long-term Program of Sea Lamprey Control in Lake Champlain prepared by USFWS, VTFWS, and NYSDEC, and may indirectly support lamprey control in the Great Lakes," said Mark Malchoff, with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Project, Plattsburgh, NY. "Research may help managers identify and prioritize those tributaries most linked to adult lamprey production. If so, the research could eventually help reduce the amount of lampricide needed to control the lamprey population in Lake Champlain, since some tributaries could be ignored."

As an Aquatic Resources Specialist with Sea Grant, Malchoff¹s responsibility is to develop an outreach program to enlist the cooperation of the angling community in the return of tagged lamprey.

Sea lamprey attach themselves to fish, boats, and angling equipment. Their jawless, blood-sucking feeding method helped decimate lake trout populations in Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan. Lamprey have greatly hindered the restoration of lake trout populations and land-locked Atlantic Salmon in Lake Champlain, by limiting the growth or killing host fish.

Lamprey swim up streams to spawn and die in the spring. The hatched larvae stay in stream sediments for four to seven years before migrating to the lake where they become parasitic on other fishes. Since 1957 a lampricide has been applied to tributary streams to reduce lamprey populations throughout the Great Lakes. This control program supported the reestablishment of Great Lakes¹ lake trout populations through stocking.

From 1990 to 1995, an experimental lampricide-based control program was used in Lake Champlain in thirteen tributary systems with a resulting reduction in lamprey populations and increase in angler catch rates of lake trout. When the program was discontinued, the lamprey population rebounded.

Malchoff says Lake Champlain is perfect for a mark and recapture study of sea lamprey because of its small size and the lamprey population build up, that has occurred since the late 1990s. There currently exists a window of opportunity to study an unsuppressed lamprey population, prior to the resumption of lamprey control this fall. This opportunity is unique since lamprey populations are suppressed in the Great Lakes, and in Lake Champlain during the period 1995-2002.

Approximately 2600 lamprey have been marked by project staff and U.S. Fish & Wildlife technicians and released in four streams feeding Lake Champlain. Anglers will not be able to see the coded tags on the lamprey and are asked to bring all lamprey into collection points at cooperating tackle shops. Cooperating tackle shops in New York include:

Richards Bait and Tackle in Plattsburgh, Peru Bait and Tackle in Peru, and Norm¹s Bait and Tackle in Crown Point. Stations will also be open during the Lake Champlain fishing derbies. As incentives for anglers to collect lamprey for the study, cash and tackle prizes will be presented for the most lamprey returned, and the lamprey returned from the farthest distance, and through a random drawing.

This study of lampreys is funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which continues to support innovative and traditional approaches for controlling lamprey populations. The study¹s principal investigators are Dr. J. Ellen Marsden, University of Vermont; Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Cornell University; and Mark Malchoff, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Project, New York Sea Grant Program.

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For more information on the lamprey study, contact Mark Malchoff, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Project, Plattsburgh State University, 518-564-3038, lamprey@plattsburgh.edu; Dr. Ellen Marsden, School of Natural Resources, University of Vermont, lamprey@zoo.uvm.edu.

Contact: Mark Malchoff, Aquatic Resources Specialist, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Project, 518-564-3038

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