Lake Champlain threatened by new invasive fish
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Summers on Lake Champlain are hard to beat, but biologists are worried about a new invasive fish threatening the watershed.
The round goby is native to the Black and Caspian Seas, but found its way to the Great Lakes in the 1990s from traveling freighters.
“Over the past few years, unfortunately, the round goby has entered the Erie Canal system and moved through that system quite quickly,” said Meg Modley of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Recently the species has been found in the Hudson and Mohawk rivers near the Lake Champlain Channel at the south end of the lake. It’s unclear what might happen if they made it into the lake. “We expect to see a significant impact on our native biodiversity,” Modely said.
The round goby spends its time prowling the bottom of lakes in search of eggs of other species, which could threaten future generations of fish species that already inhabit Lake Champlain. Fish are also known to carry diseases to which other fish are susceptible.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program has partnered with Vermont State and New York State to monitor the movements of invasive species and provide education for those who use the lake. “To ensure anglers and others who use the water know how to identify the round goby, how to report it and dispose of it properly,” Modley said.
Matt Trombley, boat captain for 3rd Alarm Charters in Vergennes, loves fishing on Lake Champlain so much that he has made it his career. “We offer year-round trips — open water, ice fishing, a bit of everything,” Trombley said.
He has traveled everywhere for sport and is no stranger to the round goby. “They are known to be nest robbers. They will come in and decimate those eggs quickly, so it took a while for the population to balance out and bounce back,” Trombley said. He says concerns about invasive species vary depending on who you ask. “I am a multi-species guide. I have different things I target throughout the year, but a lot of bass anglers, especially tournament anglers, have adapted to presenting baits and lures that look like round goby.
And Trombley says these anglers attract big bass. “But we have to keep the ecology of the lake in mind. It’s not just about bass, it’s about so many species in Lake Champlain, it’s a very diverse fishery,” he said.
When it comes to business, he doesn’t expect the round goby to get in his way.
The basin program works with New York, Vermont and federal partners to seek long-term solutions to keep the round goby out.
Copyright 2022 WCAX. All rights reserved.