Double Check Those Lamprey; Wisconsin has Native Lamprey Too

Many Wisconsin anglers are catching fish left, right, and center as we near mid-summer. But sometimes with those fish, there are reports of sea lamprey attached to fish. Even in places where the sea lamprey isn’t known to have reached, including Lake Winnebago. But anglers are often surprised to hear that Wisconsin waters play host to native lamprey. Take a minute to learn how to identify our native lamprey so next time you catch a fish with a lamprey, you’ll know if it’s native or invasive.

Native Lamprey vs. Sea Lamprey

There are four native freshwater lamprey that can be found in Wisconsin. Of these four, two are parasitic and might be on your next fish. Each species of lamprey have different physical characteristics that can help you figure the lamprey you’re seeing. Check out the chart below to see how our native species differ from the invasive sea lamprey.

Click the image to enlarge

If you’re looking for key characteristics to determine if you’ve caught a sea lamprey, take a look at the top fin of the lamprey. If the long fin on the back of the lamprey is split into two (two dorsal fins), there’s a good chance you’ve caught a sea lamprey.

The most common lamprey in the Winnbeago lake system is the native Chestnut Lamprey. To learn more about this native lamprey, check out this Fox-Wolf Species Spotlight article.

To learn more about the invasive sea lamprey, Fox-Wolf’s AIS Spotlight has the info you’ll need!

Photo Credit: Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Questions? Comments? Contact Chris Acy, the AIS Coordinator covering Brown, Outagamie, Fond du Lac, Calumet, and Winnebago Counties at (920) 460-3674 or chris@fwwa.org!

Follow the Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance’s Winnebago Waterways Program on our Winnebago Waterways Facebook page or @WinnWaterways on Twitter! You can also sign-up for email updates at WinnebagoWaterways.org.

Winnebago Waterways is a Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance program. The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance is an independent nonprofit organization that identifies and advocates effective policies and actions that protect, restore, and sustain water resources in the Fox-Wolf River Basin.

Check out the Keepers of the Fox Program at https://fwwa.org/watershed-recovery/lower-fox-recovery/

Reporting invasive species is a first step in containing their spread. Maintaining and restoring our waters and landscapes can reduce the impacts even when we don’t have other management options to an invasive species.

The post Surely a Sea Lamprey….right? appeared first on Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance.

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Chris Acy

This month’s species spotlight shines light on a native lamprey species of the Winnebago System: Chestnut Lampreys (Ichthyomyzon castaneus). There are other native species of lamprey in the Winnebago System too. These are the Silver, American Brook, and Northern Brook lampreys. Chestnut and silver lampreys are parasitic as adults, feeding on fish. However, this usually does not kill the fish. Despite the scary looking sucker disks, native lampreys are an important part of the ecosystem.

Chesnut Lamprey (young) Photo Source: Cal Yonce/USFWS

However, there is a non-native lamprey species to be aware of too: the sea lamprey. The sea lamprey is an aquatic invasive species has not invaded the Winnebago System, but is present in the Great Lakes. If the sea lamprey were to invade the Winnebago System, it is likely they would cause major issues for the ecosystem. We must work hard to keep this aquatic invasive species out of the Winnebago System. Though a bit creepy looking, the chestnut lamprey (and Silver, American Brook, and Northern Brook lampreys) are native to this region.

Chestnut lampreys are parasitic as adults but not as larvae. The adult chestnut lamprey attaches to a fish, then scrapes a hole in the body and sucks out blood and tissue fluids for nutrients. After feeding on a fish for several days, the lamprey drops off. Usually, the fish is not killed directly by the attack, but may die due to infections from the wound.

Chestnut lampreys have a skeleton made of cartilage with no true vertebrae. They technically do not have a jaw. This makes lampreys different from eels, which have a bony skeleton and jaws. Lamprey bodies are long and cylindrical. Chestnut lamprey adults range in length from 5-11 inches. The mouth of adult chestnut lampreys is as wide or wider than the head, and contains sharp teeth that each have two points (bicuspid). Along their back, chestnut lampreys have one continuous fin. Adults are usually dark brown, gray, or olive-green on the top, with a lighter coloration of yellow or tan on the stomach. During spawning, they can appear blue-black. Younger lampreys tend to be lighter in color.

The native range of the chestnut lamprey is as far north as the Hudson Bay in Canada and as far South as the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi and Missouri River networks help with this large range, as the lampreys move with their host fishes.

Chestnut Lamprey (bottom; native) vs. Sea Lamprey (top; non-native; NOT found in Lake Winnebago)

Photo Source: Bobbie Halchishak/USFWS

Chestnut lampreys spawn in late spring when the water temperature is about 50ۧ°F. Chestnut lampreys stay in the larval phase for 3 – 7 years. Chestnut lamprey larva do not have eyes. When they hatch, chestnut lampreys move downstream and bury themselves at the bottom of the water body they’re living in. For the next few years, they filter feed on tiny algae particles and tiny organisms before beginning to develop their sucking disk. This disk develops teeth which allows for parasitic feeding. Once Chestnut Lampreys are adults, they can suck blood and other nutrients from host fish. Chestnut lampreys can feed on many different fish species including carp, trout, pike, sturgeon, catfish, sunfish, and paddlefish. They live another one to two years as adults, for a total lifespan of about 6 – 9 years.

Chestnut lampreys are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. This is often why we don’t see them unless they are attached to fish we catch! During the day, they rest under rocks and along river banks. Adult chestnut lampreys are not known to have predators, but the larval lampreys are preyed upon by burbot and brown trout.

Though we tend to think of parasites as “bad”, they play an important role in the ecosystem including helping to remove weaker fish from the population. The lamprey population may become large when they have plenty of fish to feed on, but then decrease as host populations decrease. This cycle is normal in the ecosystem. Aquatic invasive species like the sea lamprey are a cause for concern because they interfere with normal population dynamics.

Winnebago Waterways is a Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance recovery initiative. Contact us at wwinfo@fwwa.org

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Katie Reed

Visitors to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc can now get up close and personal with one of the Great Lake’s most infamous invasive fish, the sea lamprey. The new exhibit, entitled “Attack of the Sea Lampreys,” was made possible through a collaboration between Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and tells the story of how sea lamprey were introduced to the Great Lakes, their impact and the ongoing efforts to manage them.

The entrance to "Attack of the Sea Lamprey," a new exhibit at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.

The entrance to “Attack of the Sea Lampreys,” a new exhibit at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Photo: Kevin Cullen

Chief curator Kevin Cullen and the education team revamped an invasive species lab on the museum’s lower level to house the new exhibit. The space was largely dormant and full of locked cabinets. Said Cullen, “People would just pass by it, so it became a really good opportunity to enhance a space that was already there.”  

The redesigned space provides a more interactive, sensory experience. Visitors can now open the cabinet doors to find answers to questions about sea lamprey, such as how many eggs they lay or bones they have. Content is written at a middle-school reading level, and many items are meant to be touched and handled, making the exhibit ideal for kids and families.

The irrefutable stars of the show, however, are the lamprey. Thanks to support and a custom-built tank from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, museum-goers can enjoy watching over a dozen lamprey hanging out, their toothy maws suctioned to the side of the glass.

Cullen said initial feedback has been positive. “[Visitors] love it. I think they’re creeped out by these things and fascinated to see them.”

The creep factor is due largely to how sea lamprey feed. A parasitic fish, sea lamprey latch onto larger fish and suck out blood and body fluids. Their mouths are disc-shaped and ringed with rows of horned teeth to better grab flesh. Once suctioned onto a host, sea lamprey then use their sharp tongue to bore a hole in the fish, usually near its heart. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish.

A sea lamprey suctions on to the walls of a glass tank. Its mouth is disc-shaped with circular rows of teeth.

A sea lamprey suctions its mouth onto the walls of a glass tank at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Photo: Kevin Cullen

For many, the story of sea lamprey is the stuff of nightmares—or at least a low-budget horror film. Titus Seilheimer, the fisheries specialist with Wisconsin Sea Grant who helped the museum secure the lamprey tank, hopes the exhibit helps visitors see another story.

“It’s one of the great success stories of invasive species management,” said Seilheimer.

Originally from the Atlantic Ocean, sea lamprey arrived in the Great Lakes via shipping canals, landing in Lakes Michigan and Superior by the 1930s and 1940s. By the mid-twentieth century, the lamprey population exploded, devastating the Great Lakes fishery and ecosystem. It wasn’t until the discovery of TFM, a chemical that selectively kills lamprey, that numbers decreased.

The population of sea lamprey is now 90% lower than what it was at its peak. But because lamprey can lay up to 100,000 eggs, that success is tenuous. Said Seilheimer, “If you take your foot off the gas, you see lamprey numbers increase.” Continuous management is required to keep the population in check.

The exhibit is a reminder of how humans have shaped and continue to shape the Great Lakes ecosystem. Said Cullen, “I hope [visitors] have a sense of responsibility when they leave that how they behave in the Great Lakes basin affects others.”

“Attack of the Sea Lampreys” at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum is now open to the public.

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Jenna Mertz

More fallout from Midland dam failures: blood-sucking parasites in rivers

By Ashley Zhou, Bridge Michigan

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

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Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2023/05/more-fallout-from-midland-dam-failures-blood-sucking-parasites-in-rivers/

Bridge Michigan

Modern sea lamprey control pits technology against the invaders

After 100 years of coordinated effort, 98% of all the sea lamprey in the Great Lakes have been eliminated, according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the organization tasked with the management of the invasive species within the basin.

Unfortunately, the remaining 2% is enough to start the cycle all over again if left unchecked, and current technology “does not make complete eradication possible,” said Marc Gaden, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission communication director and legislative liaison.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/07/modern-sea-lamprey-control-pits-technology-against-the-invaders/

Kathy Johnson

I Speak for the Fish: Not all lampreys are killers, but all are paying the price for their reputation

I Speak for the Fish is a new monthly column written by Great Lakes Now Contributor Kathy Johnson, coming out the third Monday of each month. Publishing the author’s views and assertions does not represent endorsement by Great Lakes Now or Detroit Public Television. 

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

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Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/06/not-all-lampreys-are-killers/

Kathy Johnson

The pandemic that closed the U.S./Canadian border to people may have opened it to the invasive sea lamprey

This article was republished here with permission from Great Lakes Echo.

By Danielle James, Great Lakes Echo

Great Lakes invasive species cling to shipments and navigate canals to migrate, but one aquatic invader – sea lamprey – benefitted from border closures instead.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/03/border-opened-invasive-sea-lamprey/

Great Lakes Echo

By Eva Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Continuing Wisconsin Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary blog series, I interviewed Sharon Moen, the Eat Wisconsin Fish outreach specialist. During our time together, we discussed the past, present and hopes for the future of producing fish in Wisconsin for local and global consumption.

Sharon Moen holds smoked fish on the shores of Lake Superior. Image credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

“I’m having fun with the position because I get to use my science communication skills to help American food-fish aquaculture and fisheries succeed against a challenging and changing global backdrop,” Moen said. “It feels like meaningful, important work.”

Moen’s work largely focuses on supporting food-fish aquaculture and fisheries in Wisconsin, which includes improving consumer awareness and acceptance. She explores topics of fish production, consumer demographics and how to connect local fish growers with people throughout the state.

Moen reports that commercial fishers were hampered by labor shortages last year and would like help navigating changes to state regulations. Her conversations with Wisconsin’s growing aquaculture industry indicate they could use technical help in the form of research on specific topics, finding fish processors and marketing.

“So many good things have happened in the last 50 years,” said Moen, starting with the commercial fishing industry of the Great Lakes: “The state’s commercial fishing industry was almost wiped out because of the invasion of sea lamprey, overfishing and changes to the ecosystem.” But due to progressive sustainable fishery management decisions, the fisheries have recovered, maintaining opportunities for people to make a living from plying the Great Lakes for food.

“It’s interesting to see how the industry has changed and how generational fishing families have held on and retained optimism. This is most evident in the way that, during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa opened a fish processing and marketing business to help their members. It is encouraging to witness how the Great Lakes can still provide food and livelihoods for people.”

Similar to Great Lakes fisheries, the Wisconsin aquaculture industry has experienced many advances in the past 50 years. “We grow shrimp on old dairy farms now,” Moen said. “The largest on-land aquaponic facility for salmon is in Hixton, Wisconsin. Fifty years ago, people would think you were crazy if you said we were going to grow salmon on land and shrimp in old barns.” Moen goes on to applaud the innovation of aquaculture specialists, noting how exciting it is to observe the industry changing.

As industries continue to change, it only makes sense to look forward. When asked about the future of food fish production in Wisconsin, Moen was sure to touch on climate change and aquaculture’s role in improving food security and environmental resilience in the next 50 years.

“Already about half of the seafood Americans consume is raised on farms,” she said. “These farms could be, and maybe should be, down the road instead of halfway across the planet.”

The meat industry is a known contributor to carbon emissions and Earth’s changing climate. Moen specifically mentioned the feed conversion ratio of cows, pigs, and chickens. Compared to these animals, the feed conversion ratio of fish is significantly lower, effectively saving resources while providing an impressive yield of protein and essential nutrients for brain development in children and heart health.

“I think fish are going to be one of our most important sources of protein in the near future, especially as we get better at growing them in contained facilities. As people coming to terms with technology, where their seafood comes from and climate change, these changes have to happen.”

Further research on the food sources we use for feeding fish are being conducted each day. For example, scientists are trying to determine how we can grow algae containing omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial nutrients to feed fish. That way, when we eat the fish that consume these algae, we also reap the benefits of those nutrients. All in all, the advancements taking place in the aquaculture industry are bountiful and exciting.

Considering the human health and environmental benefits of being a piscivore, Moen summed it up best when she said, “Eat fish, people!”

The post Eat Fish, People! first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Wisconsin Sea Grant

Genetic Engineering: Researchers take first steps toward controlling sea lamprey

Early in October, scientists who pioneered a powerful gene-editing technology won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That same technology is now being used to explore new ways to control invasive sea lamprey in the Great Lakes.

When researchers suggested earlier this year that it might be possible to eradicate sea lamprey from the Great Lakes, it was with developing gene-editing technology in mind.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/10/genetic-engineering-research-controlling-sea-lamprey/

Andrew Blok

Complete Eradication: Researchers look at removing sea lamprey from the Great Lakes

Sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes has been a success.

Compared to the 1950s, 90% fewer of the toothy, invasive, eel-like parasite are spawning.

Control efforts have been so successful that some researchers now suggest a more permanent solution: complete eradication of the pest from the Great Lakes.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/09/sea-lamprey-invasive-species-research-eradication-great-lakes/

Andrew Blok

Quiz: What Great Lakes invasive species are you?

Great Lakes Now is hosting a live chat about invasive species with the Belle Isle Conservancy on Friday, Aug. 7. Check out the event page here for more details.

Since the 1800s, at least 25 non-native fish species – like the sea lamprey, zebra mussel or round goby – have entered the Great Lakes, changing the Great Lakes ecosystem in a variety of ways.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/11/invasive-species-quiz-great-lakes/

Natasha Blakely