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Great Lakes Article:

Exotic fish found for first time in Chequamegon
Associated Press
07/25/03


ASHLAND, Wis. - Ice fishing in Chequamegon Bay last winter, Travis Nye of Ashland hooked a white perch -- the first one officially documented in the bay -- and set a new state record, too.

Before Nye's catch, the presence of the exotic fish in Lake Superior had been confirmed only at the Duluth-Superior harbor, where it was found in 1986, fishery experts say.

Alan Niebur, a state Department of Natural Resources regional supervisor, said fishery experts suspect the white perch -- big enough at 10 5/8 inches and 13.2 ounces for a state record -- got into the bay through the ballasts of ships, although migration from elsewhere can't be ruled out.

Unloaded freighters ensure stability in the ocean by sucking up water for weight, and then the boats often release the water, which sometimes carries exotic species, into harbors.

White perch are not native to the Lake Superior region, and are found primarily along the north Atlantic coast near Massachusetts, Maine and Delaware. The fish were first found in the Great Lakes in 1950, and scientists theorize the fish moved through the lakes via canals.

Steve Schram, a DNR fisheries biologist, said other exotic species found in Chequamegon Bay, like the Eurasian ruffe and spiny water flea, also likely arrived because of ballast dumps.

"The problem with all these exotics is we don't know their long-term ecological consequences," Schram said. "It may take decades before we start to see consequences from their introductions."

White perch eat minnows and fish eggs of walleye, white bass, yellow perch and possibly other species, according to a publication of the Wisconsin Sea Grant program.

Scientists have blamed the white perch in contributing to a decline in Lake Michigan's native yellow perch population.

Since their 1988 introduction into Lake Michigan, Niebur said it's amazing how white perch have populated the warm, shallow reaches of Green Bay's southern end. Hour-long trawls of the bay turn up catches that are "almost all white perch," he said.

The Lake Michigan population crash ended commercial fishing for yellow perch in the mid-1990s and cut anglers' bag limits to five per day.

In 1984, the U.S. Geological Survey found a fish in Chequamegon Bay that one biologist identified as a white bass, but another said was a white perch, said Gary Czypinski, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fishery expert.

That specimen was lost, leaving biologists with no way to confirm the identifications, Czypinski said.

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