lamprey program under way near Sodus
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service focusing on Pipestone Creek
By Lou Mumford
South Bend Tribune
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has in Pipestone Creek,
and a field crew is expected to address the issue starting
today by introducing lampricides to a roughly 15-mile segment
of the creek in the Sodus Township area of Berrien County.
The chemicals will be introduced in quantities large
enough to kill sea lamprey larvae burrowed in the stream
bottom but small enough that they won't have an impact
on other fish, the general population and the environment,
said Dennis Lavis, supervisor of the Ludington, Mich.,
biological station for the federal agency.
The sea lamprey eradication program is good news for
fishermen not only in Lake Michigan but lakes Superior,
Huron, Erie and Ontario.
Adult sea lampreys, shaped like eels, have been feeding
on trout and salmon, primarily, in the Great Lakes since
the 1930s, Lavis said.
Native to the Atlantic Ocean, sea lampreys probably gained
access to Lake Erie when the Welland Canal around Niagara
Falls was completed in 1829, Lavis said. However, they
weren't discovered in Lake Erie until almost a century
From Lake Erie, the lampreys quickly spread, Lavis said,
and all but eliminated lake trout by the 1950s.
Lampricides developed in the 1950s have been highly successful
in controlling sea lampreys. Lavis said the chemicals
are applied in lake tributaries where adult lampreys spawn
and die, leaving behind larvae that lie harmless for four
or five years.
An assessment team from the Fish and Wildlife Service
discovered the larvae in Pipestone Creek, a tributary
of the St. Joseph River that empties into Lake Michigan,
some 30 years ago, said Ellie Koon, a treatment supervisor
and a member of the field crew that arrived at the creek
Lampricides have been applied every few years since the
discovery in an attempt to eliminate the threat, Koon
Although lampricides aren't toxic to mammals, Koon said
her field crew was busy Tuesday posting signs at stream
crossings notifying the public of the treatment program.
She said the program takes 24 hours to run its course.
"We'll put chemicals in for 12 hours, beginning
at the mouth of the creek, ... (and) it'll carry downstream
from there,'' she said.
She said additional chemicals will be introduced at predetermined
sites downstream to assure proper concentrations.
To be on the safe side, anyone with access to Pipestone
Creek, between the St. Joseph River and a point just east
of the Pipestone Creek Golf Course near Bailey and Naomi
roads, is advised to use discretion and minimize unnecessary
exposure to the chemicals.
The program is expected to destroy an estimated 23,500
larval sea lampreys that otherwise would be expected to
develop and enter Lake Michigan later this year.
Each lamprey consumes nearly 40 pounds of lake trout
and salmon during its parasitic life.