Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Lamprey control efforts paying off for NY anglers

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) – Efforts to control the sea lamprey
population in Lake Champlain and its tributaries are paying off
with a significant drop in the number of lake trout and salmon
afflicted by the parasite.

“This year is when it seems like things finally started coming
together, with anglers in the lake reporting great fishing for both
species through the summer,” state Department of Environmental
Conservation Region 5 Fisheries Supervisor Bill Schoch said. “In
the fall, we got good salmon runs in the rivers, which we haven’t
had for more than a decade.”

The program battling the sea lamprey population is called the
Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, which
consists of representatives from New York, Vermont and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.

Together, the three agencies have been battling sea lampreys for
decades, with varying degrees of success. This year, though, things
seem to be taking a drastic step in the right direction.

One of the best indicators for measuring the success of the
program is the sea lamprey wounding rate on Atlantic salmon and
lake trout. A lamprey attaches to a fish with its teeth-ringed,
suction-cup mouth, rasps a hole, and feeds on the fish’s blood and
body fluids.

Sampling by biologists this fall found 15 wounds per 100 salmon,
down from 30 per 100 last year. It’s the first time the management
goal of 15 wounds per 100 salmon has been met since the program
started in 1990.

The wounding rate on lake trout was 40 per 100 this fall. That
was down from 55 last year and 99 in 2006, but it doesn’t reach the
goal of 25 per 100 fish.

With fewer sea lampreys in Lake Champlain, biologists say more
lake trout and salmon are now surviving to older ages and larger
sizes.

Bill Wellman, of the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited,
confirmed anglers have been recording good takes this year.

“My buddies have caught fish up to and over 8 1/2 pounds in the
Saranac (River),” he said. “That’s a healthy-sized Atlantic
salmon.”

The salmon run was also strong this year on several rivers,
including the Boquet.

“The salmon run at the Willsboro fishway set a new record this
year with over 50 fish going up the ladder,” Wellman said.
“That’s a new high for that ladder.”

The main method for controlling the sea lamprey population is by
applying lampricide to rivers and deltas where lampreys spawn. The
pesticide targets young sea lamprey while causing minimal damage to
other fish and wildlife, Schoch said.

“The concentration that will kill 99 percent of the lamprey
will kill some other fish, so that you nail the lampreys and you
may see mortality of log perch, mudpuppies, some other species, but
those other species are far from wiped out,” Schoch said. “Even
though you kill some, there’s still most of the population that
survives, so they rebound quickly.”

New York rivers where lampricide is applied include the Great
Chazy, Salmon, Little AuSable, AuSable, Boquet, Poultney, Mill
Brook, Mount Hope Brook and Putnam Creek. It is also used at river
deltas, including the mouth of the Saranac.

 

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