New war cry: Let's get snakehead
Chicago Sun Times
Published October 27th, 2004
I pegged them as out-of-towners. Kirby Redman and his
son Ben watched intently as the electroshocking boat worked
through Burnham Harbor on Friday.
Redman, an optometrist from Minocqua, Wis., brought Ben
to check out the Illinois College of Optometry on the
3400 block of South Michigan Avenue. Being hardy, they
hiked the several miles back to the Loop via the lakefront.
There's magic in Lake Michigan. It tugs on people as
surely and powerfully as the moon pulls the tides. The
lake works magically enough to influence decisions as
big as what college to attend.
So when the lake is threatened by an exotic like a snakehead,
officials go into justifiable spasms. Matt Philbin of
Tinley Park reported netting a snakehead in the northeast
corner of Burnham on Oct. 9.
Since then, it has been a pending international incident.
Tom Trudeau, head of the Lake Michigan Program for the
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has received
offers of assistance from every related federal agency:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Army Corps of
Last week, Field Museum biologist Phil Willink and Corps
ichthyologist Frank Veraldi set trap nets and gill nets
to see if more snakeheads could be found. None were. On
Friday, the IDNR and the Corps brought in three electroshocking
boats to sweep the harbor. Again, no snakeheads.
As IDNR biologists Steve Robillard and Dan Makauskas
swept the west side of Burnham, many browns and chinooks
floated up. During electroshocking, stunned fish float
to the surface. Redman asked what they were looking for.
"Snakeheads,'' I said. "They look something
"I caught the world-record bowfin,'' Redman said.
"Oh, boy,'' I thought, "another fish story.''
But, indeed, he owns the line-class (10-pound) record
for a 12-pound, 6-ounce bowfin caught from Squirrel Lake
in Wisconsin on May 8, 1999, according to the Fresh Water
Fishing Hall of Fame. Redman was walleye fishing when
he caught the bowfin. His guide, Michael Bowen, happened
to guess it might be a world record, otherwise Redman
would have shaken the bowfin off as an unwanted species.
It's funny how we value certain species. And how species
add or subtract value to water. Walleye, bass and panfish,
good. Bowfin, so-so. Snakeheads, bad.
Biologists found plenty of good species on Friday: bluegill,
green sunfish, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, rock bass,
yellow perch, chinook salmon, coho salmon and brown trout.
And one so-so species, gizzard shad. And a couple of
bad ones: round gobies and a 25-inch sea lamprey Willink
pulled off a chinook. Lampreys were an early Great Lakes
exotic, reaching Lake Michigan by 1936. Lampreys so decimated
native lake trout that the species survives only through
Friday ended the intensive governmental effort to find
more snakeheads in Burnham for this fall. Through the
winter, biologists will depend on fishermen. In the spring,
more sampling will be done.
Snakeheads hang shallow. If another one is found, it
will likely be caught by those ice fishing shallow weeds
for panfish, not anglers working for perch in deeper water.
The welcome mat is not out.