ANDRE L. TAYLOR
The round goby may have more in common with catfish than
one would think.
In parts of Europe and Asia, gobies are a common part of
dinner, just as catfish is in some parts of the United States.
"(There's) a big commercial market for them in Europe,"
said Carey Knight, a fisheries biologist for the Ohio Division
of Wildlife. "Some people from Michigan State University
actually cooked some up, and they said they were very good."
In Venice, Italy, gobies are a source of nutrition and often
are served with pasta. They are served fried in Hong Kong,
and appear in a dish called "macher jhal" (literally, "fish
in hot mustard") in Bangladesh.
But so far, the goby is known locally as little more than
a nuisance bottom fish that is fouling Lake Erie and its
Paula Jessep and Keith Semerod, two anglers who recently
were catching gobies and little else off the South Pier,
said they'd never thought about eating them.
"A fish is a fish, and I guess I'll try anything," said
Twenty-five-year-old Semerod, however, put a condition on
trying the small fish: "Somebody else would have to fix
Lake Erie's increasing round-goby population — Knight
said the fish can reproduce every 18 days —has fishermen
upset and concerned.
To fishermen, the goby can provoke rage because it eats
bait meant for game fish, such as perch or bass.
"You don't have a chance to catch anything else," said South
Pier visitor John Marques. "It's gobies!"
Marques, 14, said that he has already caught between 75
and 100 round gobies this year.
His solution to the goby problem is simple.
"Just keep killing them off," he said, noting that he sometimes
just leaves them on the pier to be eaten by birds.
In fact, even some officials are recommending exterminating
Pennsylvania Sea Grant, part of the U.S. Commerce Department-administered
National Sea Grant Network, suggests fishermen not throw
the gobies back into the water, but instead to dispose of
them — either in the trash or by freezing them.
38, fishes at the South Pier. Anglers are frustrated
by the presence of the Goby. (Erie Times-News photo
by Janet B. Campbell)
Round gobies are believed to have made their way to the
Great Lakes via transoceanic vessels that passed through
the Black and Caspian seas, to which the fish are native.
John Bowser of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
said he agrees with local anglers who want to do away with
the gobies. But he said the proper way to dispose of them
isn't to leave them on the pier or to throw them into the
"They can be disposed of in a proper trash receptacle -
or used as fertilizer," he said.
Knight said gobies actually do have an important role in
the waters of Lake Erie. Gobies helped solve the problem
with the zebra mussel — another creature that made
its way into the Great Lakes via seagoing freighters —
by eating them.
"There's a lot of good things that gobies provide," Knight
However, whether gobies make a good dinner is something
Erie has yet to discover.
And that's probably a good thing, said Fred Snyder, a district
Sea Grant specialist at the Ohio State University extension.
He noted that gobies feed on zebra mussels, which contain
high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls because they filter
all that they eat through their gills. The PCBs then accumulate
in the gobies, he said.
"I wouldn't eat them myself," Snyder said. "And it's based
on an ongoing study that tracks the movement of PCBs from
zebra mussels to gobies to the smallmouth bass."
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