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Entries in round gobies (8)


Bad News For Great Lakes Sport Fish: Prey on Decline

From 1978 to 2016, total prey fish biomass has declined in Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan, according to annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  Those species include cisco, bloater, rainbow smelt, alewife, and round goby.

What's going on? Michigan State University Extension said, "There were massive changes in the Great Lakes fish communities during the 20th century."

Introduction of more than 100 species of exotics were among those changes, with zebra and quagga mussels arguably the most notorious and harmful. Today, prey species are suffering a double whammy, as they are gobbled up by sport fish, while filter-feeding of plankton by the exotic mussels is depriving them of the food they need to sustain their populations.

Huron was the first to show dramatic decline, and now Michigan is following suit.

"The (Lake Michigan) picture looks very similar to what Lake Huron was like before it crashed," said USGS's Chuck Madenjian. "And nobody was prepared for how quickly it went over there."

In 2017, bottom-trawling data on Michigan showed lake-wide prey biomass of 13.3 kilotonnes, the fourth-lowest on record. All four have been recorded during the past four years.

States, meanwhile, have reduced stocking of trout and salmon in hopes of striking a better balance between predator and prey.

USGS findings include the following:

  • Round goby. Let's start with the good news. "Round goby biomass increased in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario during the 1990s or 2000s, then peaked, perhaps even decreased somewhat, and appears to have leveled off in all four lakes . . .  Round goby populations in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario now appear to be under some degree of predatory control as they are fed upon by smallmouth bass, lake whitefish, burbot, lake trout, brown trout, yellow perch, other fish and birds." 
  • Alewife. "Synchronous decline in alewife biomass during 1978-2016 . . . Predation has been the primary driver of alewife dynamics in Lake Michigan since the 1960s and it is likely the main driver of alewife dynamics in Lakes Huron and Ontario as well."
  • Rainbow smelt. Similar decline in Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Ontario. "In these four lakes, rainbow smelt was an important prey species before the mid-1990s and is now a minor prey species."
  • Coregonids, which includes whitefish, cisco, bloater. Also consistent decline, although "predation does not appear to be the primary driver . . ." Increased water clarity and climate change could be among other contributing factors.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Smallmouth Bass Records Broken or Tied in Four States

Michigan's state record smallmouth bass, caught on a nightcrawler.During a year when the smallmouth bass record possibly has been broken or tied in four states, the most recent is arguably the most impressive for a couple of reasons.

First, Bruce Kraemer's catch Sept.11 on Michigan's Indian River nearly reached double digits, checking in at 9.98 pounds. That's more than a half pound heavier than the previous record, 9.33 pounds, caught less than a year before. The latter toppled a mark that was more than a century old, a 9.25-pound smallie caught in 1906.

Meanwhile in neighboring Wisconsin, the record of 9.1 was set in 1950, while Minnesota's record of 8 pounds has stood since 1948.

Second, Kraemer caught the huge fish while fishing with a live nightcrawler on light spinning gear from his backyard. He wouldn't even have known it was record if he hadn't entered it in a fishing contest sponsored by a local business."I usually spend June through the end of September up here at the cottage," said the angler who lives the rest of the year in Treasure Island, Fla. "I've got some great fish stories and some nice fish, but nothing like this."

And he wouldn't have had "this," if his neighbor, Ron Krieg, hadn't convinced him to stay a little longer.

"He also netted the fish for me and talked me into entering it into the fishing contest at Pat and Gary's Party Store," the angler said.

Up in New York, meanwhile, Patrick Hildebrand tied the state record with an 8.25-pound smallmouth that he caught a few weeks earlier out of Cape Vincent on the St. Lawrence River. Taken on a dropshot rig in about 35 feet of water, it equals the mark set in 1995. New York Department of Environmental Conservation hasn't yet officially acknowledged the catch as tying the state record, but likely soon will.

Both of those fish might have grown to record proportions by gorging on gobies, an exotic species common in both Indian River and the St. Lawrence. In fact, Kraemer said that he had rigged the nightcrawler above his sinker to keep it off the bottom and away from the small bottom-dwelling fish.

"When I set the hook, I first thought that I had a goby," he recalled. "But when I pulled, it didn't move and I thought I was snagged on bottom. But then it started moving toward the middle of the river."

Out in South Dakota's Little Horseshoe Lake, Lyal Held caught a pre-spawn smallmouth that checked in a 7.185 pounds (7-3), to surpass the record of 7, taken at the same fishery in 2013.  Captured in late April, Held's fish had a girth of 19 inches that almost equaled its length of 19.5. "I've never seen anything so fat," Held said. "It was so fat its eyes were bulging."

And in Montana, Melvin McDonald might have set the new standard in August at Fort Peck Reservoir with a catch of 6.7 pounds as he was bottom-bouncing a Berkley Gulp! Minnow for walleyes. Montana Department of Natural Resources has yet to confirm the catch. Current record of 6.375 (6-6) was set twice, in 2000 on the Flat River and in 2002 at Fort Peck.


Exotic Species Threat 'Celebrated' in Song

Just before Christmas, some invasive species experts wrote their own version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

As reported by the Journal Sentinel, here’s a portion of the song intended to increase awareness about exotic species and the problems that they create:

"On the 12th day of Christmas, a freighter sent to me,

"Twelve quaggas clogging: Quagga mussels, which can tolerate colder water than zebra mussels as well as colonize soft substrates, are now the dominant invasive mussel in Lake Michigan. Just like zebra mussels, quagga mussels are quite effective at clogging water intake pipes and other infrastructure. Mitigating these impacts has cost Great Lakes residents millions of dollars.

"Eleven gobies gobbling: Round gobies are very effective egg predators. Their advanced lateral line system (a series of fish sensory organs) allows them to find eggs that native egg predators are unable to.

"Ten alewives croaking: Until the introduction of Pacific salmon, alewives died off in such great numbers that tractors were required to remove them from Lake Michigan beaches. Salmon now do a great job controlling alewife numbers, but there are still alewife die-offs due to spawning-related stresses.

"Nine eggs in resting: The spiny waterflea and the fishhook waterflea produce tiny resting eggs that can survive long after the mature waterflea has perished. The resting eggs also can survive extreme environmental conditions, so it is imperative to make sure recreational equipment is cleaned to prevent spreading these invasive crustaceans.

"Eight shrimp 'a swarming: The bloody red shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, is one of the Great Lakes' most recently discovered ballast invaders. The effects on the Great Lakes are largely unknown, but the shrimp may compete for food with young fish and have been found in the diet of some fish in the Great Lakes.

"Seven carp and counting: There are seven species of invasive carp in the United States. There are the four collectively known as Asian carp (black, grass, silver and bighead), the common carp, the crucian carp, and last but not least, the Prussian carp (aka the goldfish). While the current focus is on the silver and bighead carp, all of these carp cause problems one way or another. Hopefully, we won't actually be counting any other carp species soon.

"Six lamprey leaping: This is actually some bad lamprey biology humor. Lampreys are poor jumpers, especially when compared with trout and salmon, so a small low-head obstacle or ledge can prevent lampreys from moving farther upstream while other fish leap over the obstacle. Thus, physical barriers or one-way managers are preventing lampreys from invading more streams in the Great Lakes basin.


Breaking News: Invasive Species Declare Moratorium on Spreading to Allow Feds Time to Plan

Here’s some reassuring news from the federal government, which has done such a great job of protecting our ecosystems from Asian carp, quagga mussels, round gobies, and other exotic species. In case you’re still a bit groggy from all of that holiday celebrating, that previous sentence is sarcasm.

Bowing to pressure from commercial shipping interests, the exotic pet industry, and fish farmers, the federal government has done an abysmal job, and it appears that it will keep on keeping on in that vein.

As part of its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, the Corps of Engineers is offering 90 proposals for keeping Asian carp and other invasives from migrating into and out of the Great Lakes. Under the present schedule, those options would be narrowed by 2015, with final recommendations made to Congress the following year.

Isn’t that great? In the meantime, carp, mussels, and dozens of other invaders will halt their spread and devastation as a gesture of good faith. That’s more sarcasm, folks.

In an editorial, the Toledo Blade recently said this:

“Government officials did little to stop the northerly migration of voracious Asian carp for decades. Evidence of their DNA turned up in 2009 beyond a series of electrical barriers near Chicago that had been set up to repel a smaller and less-threatening exotic species, round gobies. The barriers have since been modified to turn away carp as well.

“That's the plan, anyway. But if it doesn't work, the carp could devastate Lake Erie. More fish are spawned and caught in Lake Erie than in all of the other Great Lakes combined. Most of the activity is in the lake's western basin, near Toledo.

“The obvious solution, widely advocated by leading Great Lakes scientists, is a complete separation of the lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. But that course would be expensive and politically controversial, requiring one of the largest engineering feats in North American history and costing billions of dollars.

“Litigation over the future of Chicago-area shipping locks pitted Illinois against other Great Lakes states, and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Obama Administration supported efforts to keep the locks open.

“Frustrated by the agonizingly slow movement of the anti-carp bureaucracy, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) is sponsoring a measure that would require the Corps to pick up the pace. It deserves support.”

You can learn more about the Corps proposals and comment upon them (by Feb. 17) by going here. Probably would be best to avoid sarcasm in your comments. 


Atlantic Salmon Recover in New York's Salmon River

The Atlantic salmon is once again reproducing in New York’s Salmon River. For the third year in a row, researchers have confirmed the presence of young salmon in the river.

According to the Associated Press:

“The goal is to re-establish a heritage species that had a prominent place in the cultural history of the region, where early settlers wrote of spearing hundreds of salmon a night during the spawning run.”

Lake Ontario once supported the world’s largest freshwater population of Atlantic salmon. But the fish vanished in the late 1800s as a result of overfishing and habitat destruction.

Government agencies in the U.S. and Canada have maintained an Atlantic salmon fishery by the annual stocking of millions of hatchery fish, but the fish haven’t been able to reproduce in the wild because of a thiamine deficiency caused by eating alewives, an invasive species. Alewives contain an enzyme that destroys thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1.

Possibly the salmon now are reproducing because of the presence of yet another exotic species, the round goby, as forage. Gobies are high in thiamine, which could counter the ill effect caused by the alewives.

Read the full story here.