Efforts to control sea lamprey populations in Lake Champlain tributaries proved successful in 2015 and improved conditions for landlocked Atlantic Salmon and Lake Trout, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.
The targeted treatments by the DEC, in coordination with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, are meant to reduce the impacts this vicious predator has on the economically important recreational fisheries in the area.
DEC treated several Lake Champlain tributaries, including Mount Hope Brook and the Poultney River as well as Vermont's Hubbardton River, Lewis Creek and the Winooski River, with lampricides this fall as part of the long-term, integrated sea lamprey control program. Extensive studies and reported angler experiences have shown that the treatments benefitted the Lake Champlain landlocked Atlantic Salmon and Lake Trout restoration programs and will continue to do so into 2016.
"It is encouraging to see the success of DEC and its partners in restoring Lake Champlain's trout and salmon fisheries by effectively controlling sea lamprey numbers," said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "We must remain vigilant in combating lampreys so our native fish populations can thrive and local communities can benefit from the outstanding recreational fishing Lake Champlain offers."
The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is one of 31 species of lamprey found throughout the world and one of four lamprey species found in the Lake Champlain Basin. Lamprey are eel-shaped fish with a skeleton made of cartilage not bone and range from 6 to 24 inches in length. In the Lake Champlain system, most immature sea lamprey live in streams for four years before descending into Lake Champlain to aggressively prey on fish. Adult sea lamprey attach to a host fish, rasp and puncture its skin, and drain its body fluids, often killing the host fish.
DEC first began studying and combating lampreys in Lake Champlain in 1990. Under the current treatment program, lampricide (TFM), a liquid pesticide, is applied in precise concentrations to lamprey-infested streams to kill the immature, larval form of the sea lamprey without significantly impacting other species. Lampricide poses no threat to humans, but the state Department of Health urges people to avoid consumption of water when the treatments are applied.
The control program is also beneficial to a range of other fish species including Northern Pike, Walleye and Lake Sturgeon, in addition to trout and salmon. Two stream treatments in New York, Putnam Creek and Beaver Brook, were rescheduled to 2016 because of low flows. Further sampling for larval sea lamprey this summer revealed that neither Mill Brook nor its delta area contain larval sea lamprey, so the treatments originally scheduled for these areas were not necessary.
Ultimately, the 2015 fall treatments and a continued lamprey control program will translate into better fishing on Lake Champlain in the coming years. Please visit DEC's website for more information about the Lake Champlain sea lamprey control program.