Sea lamprey making return to Lake Erie
By D'Arcy Egan
The Plain Dealer
Published August 27, 2004
Sea lampreys seem to be making a Lake Erie comeback, much
to the dismay of fisheries biologists.
The eel-like fish attach themselves to game fish with
raspy mouths and drain blood from them, often killing
the host fish. The lampreys prefer small-scaled game fish
such as salmon and trout and are blamed for the demise
of the lake trout and lake whitefish around the Great
Lakes a half century ago. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission
was created in 1955 to eradicate the sea lamprey and bring
back the lake trout, which were all but gone from lakes
Erie, Ontario, Huron and Michigan.
State and federal officials have been trying to eliminate
the saltwater invader for decades. The most common method
has been to chemically treat streams where sea lamprey
spawn, destroying larval lamprey before they reach the
parasitic adult stage.
This summer, there has been an increase in the number
of lamprey found attached to game fish, mostly steelhead
trout, caught by anglers fishing the Ohio coast. Biologists
at both the Sandusky and Fairport Harbor offices of the
Ohio Division of Wildlife have been hearing the bad news
from sport fishermen.
The fishery commission monitors the lamprey population
of Lake Erie and continues to treat Ohio streams. With
few clear-water streams and a lack of proper spawning
habitat, Ohio is not considered a hotbed for spawning
The lamprey arrived in Great Lakes after the Welland
Canal was built in 1829 to allow freighters passage past
Niagara Falls. First recorded in Lake Erie in 1921, the
lamprey quickly spread. The smaller, silver lamprey is
native to Ohio waters and is more commonly found in western
Lake Erie; the sea lamprey favors the deeper waters of
central Lake Erie.