Great Lakes Environmental Directory Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes grants exotic species water pollution water export drilling environment Great Lakes pollution Superior Michigan Huron Erie Ontario ecology Great Lakes issues wetlands Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes watershed water quality exotic species Great Lakes grants water pollution water export oil gas drilling environment environmental Great Lakes pollution Lake Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Great Lakes ecology Great Lakes issues Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Resources Great Lakes activist Great Lakes environmental organizations Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat air pollution alien species threatened rare endangered species ecological Great Lakes information Success Stories Great Lakes Directory Home/News Great Lakes Calendar Great Lakes jobs/volunteering Search Great Lakes Organizations Take Action! Contact Us Resources/Links Great Lakes Issues Great Lakes News Article About Us Networking Services

Great Lakes Article:

Predator fish's origin a mystery
Snakehead secret survives dissection
By Michael Hawthorne
Chicago Tribune
Published October 31st, 2004

Dissecting the northern snakehead, a fish scooped out of Burnham Harbor this month, has failed to solve the mystery of how the dreaded predator ended up in Lake Michigan.

After thawing out the 18-inch fish Friday and taking a closer look, scientists now know the snakehead was a female.

It wasn't carrying eggs, a sign that the fish might have been a loner. But its stomach was empty, depriving researchers of evidence that could have revealed where it came from.

If there had been goldfish inside, that almost assuredly would have meant the snakehead had been dumped out of an aquarium. Bluegills or round gobies would have suggested it had been lurking in the lake for a while.

"Nothing definitive, I'm afraid," said Philip Willink, a Field Museum biologist who examined the fish.

When a Tinley Park angler captured the snakehead Oct. 7 near the Adler Planetarium, state and federal wildlife officials feared another troublesome import had invaded the Great Lakes.

The northern snakehead, a native of China, Korea and Russia, is a voracious eater that could crowd out native fish such as bass and walleye, scientists fear.

Unlike most other fish, the snakehead breathes air in addition to absorbing oxygen through its gills, a trait that allows it to survive out of water for days if kept moist. It also can flop short distances over land to other bodies of water.

To check for other snakeheads, scientists sank gill nets and traps along the concrete walls and steel pilings that line the harbor and brought in boats equipped with electrodes that bring stunned fish to the surface.

They found several fish that aren't native to Lake Michigan, but no snakeheads.

Wildlife officials have ended that intense search, but they urged local anglers to keep looking.

After reading that the snakehead was caught in a net, Willink said somebody probably dumped it in the harbor without realizing that doing so is illegal.

"They normally stay near the bottom of shallow, vegetated areas, and wait for a meal to pass by," he said. "This one seemed lost, as if it had just gotten there."

Matt Philbin, who caught the fish, said it was moving slowly near the surface and didn't resist when he scooped it out of the water. He posted a picture of the odd-looking fish on a Web site devoted to local fishing, setting in motion a chain of events that led from a 5-gallon bucket in Philbin's garage to a laboratory at the Field Museum.

"That's some fish story," Philbin said.

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Great Lakes environmental information

Return to Great Lakes Directory Home/ Site Map