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Lake Champlain threatened by new invasive fish

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Summers out on Lake Champlain are hard to beat, but biologists are worried about a new invasive fish that threatens the watershed.

The round goby is originally from the Black and Caspian Seas but found its way to the Great Lakes in the ‘90s from traveling cargo ships.

“In the last few years, unfortunately, round goby got into the Erie Canal system and moved rather rapidly through that system,” said Meg Modley with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Recently, the species was found in the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, which is close to the Lake Champlain Canal at the southern end of the lake. It’s unknown what could happen if they were to make it into the lake. “We do expect we would see a big impact on our native biodiversity,” Modley said.

The round goby spends its time lurking on the bottom of lakes in search of other species’ eggs, which could threaten future generations of species of fish who already call Lake Champlain home. The fish also are known carriers of diseases that other fish are susceptible to.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program has teamed up with both the state of Vermont and New York to monitor the invasive’s movement and offer education to those who use the lake. “To make sure anglers and other people who use the water know how to identify the round goby, know how to report it, and dispose of it properly,” Modley said.

Matt Trombley, a boat captain for 3rd Alarm Charters in Vergennes, loves fishing on Lake Champlain so much that he made a career out of it. “We offer trips all year round -- open water, ice fishing, a little bit of everything,” Trombley said.

He’s traveled all over for the sport and is no stranger to the round goby. “They are known to be nest robbers. They’ll go in and decimate those eggs quickly, so it took a while for the population to balance out and rebound,” Trombley said. He says concerns about the invasive vary depending on who you ask. “I’m a multi-species guide. I have different things I target year-round but a lot of the bass fishermen, especially tournament fisherman, have adapted to presenting with baits and lures that look like round goby.”

And Trombley says those fishermen are luring in large bass. “But we have to keep in mind the ecology of the lake. It’s not just about the 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 will get in the way.

The Basin Program is working with New York, Vermont, and federal partners to look at long-term solutions to keep the round goby out.

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