'Frankenfish' found in Chicago
Illinois authorities worry about Great Lakes infestation
Published October 15th, 2004
CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- The dreaded Northern Snakehead,
a voracious predator dubbed the "Frankenfish"
that can breathe out of water and wriggle across land,
has invaded the Great Lakes, authorities said on Friday.
Scientists with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources
identified the 18-inch (46-cm), sharp-toothed fish netted
over the weekend in a harbor near Chicago's downtown by
a fisherman, who put it in his freezer and posted a photograph
of the creature on the Internet.
A native of China, the Northern Snakehead was first discovered
in 2002 breeding in East Coast ponds -- one of which was
poisoned and another drained -- and has since been spotted
in the Potomac River in Virginia, in Florida and in other
places -- but not, until now, in the Great Lakes.
"These things are voracious feeders. They're a very
aggressive fish," said Mike Conlin of the Department
of Natural Resources. "We hope it's a stray, dumped
there by somebody who got tired of feeding it."
Teams will use electric cables in the harbor to shock
fish to the surface to look for more of the species, which
can survive the cold Midwest winter and eats other fish,
frogs and even birds and mammals. If it breeds, it could
devour game fish and devastate the lakes' multibillion-dollar
The Great Lakes, the world's largest body of fresh water,
has long been plagued by invasive species, with the latest
being the Zebra Mussel, the Round Goby and the Sea Lamprey.
Earlier this week, authorities announced plans to erect
an electrified, underwater barrier in the waterway connecting
Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River watershed to try
to stave off the northerly advance of the Asian Carp,
a huge fish that gobbles up vital phytoplankton. The carp,
which escaped flooded fish farms along the Mississippi,
is within 50 miles (80 km) of Lake Michigan.
Alarmed Asian Carp have been known to leap from the water
and knock out people in boats.
The electrified barrier will be adjacent to one erected
a few years ago, designed to keep the Round Goby from
migrating from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi River
watershed, but the effort came too late.