Monday, February 6, 2006

So Much Water So Little Fish

I've lived on Lake Michigan all my life. When I was young we used to have water that was so polluted you couldn't see your feet when it was just two feet deep.

We also had alewives dying off by the thousands and stinking up the beaches with their dead carcuses every summer for years. I think coho salmon were introduced to eat them so, finally, you no longer need to shovel dead fish to put down your towel.

Last night after the Super Bowl I was in my car and turned it to a local talkshow station which has a bunch of weekend programs they put on early early or late late -- you know, garden guys, car guys, fix up your house guys, relationship guys, computer guys, and apparently, when I tuned in close to eleven last night -- fish guys. 

For ten non stop minutes, the fish guy read an obituary of sorts about the Great Lakes and the fish that swim in them. But first, in his preamble of death, he announced the impending demise of all Atlantic salmon except those grown in fisheries.  He said they are virtually gone from the ocean and rivers throughout the eastern half of the country.

Then he said that the Great Lakes are clearing up and no longer cloudy, which I thought was a good sign, but, according to the fish guy, it's a bad sign. I guess cloudy can be good and clear can be bad.

Apparently that evil little barnacle pest from Europe, the zebra mussel, has been proliferating like mad in the Great Lakes and eating all the algae in the water that the indigen ous lake trout normally feed on. There are ducks that like to eat zebra mussels, but we don't have enough of them chowing down yet to get them under control.

Meanwhile, lake trout need cloudy water for food and a place to hide. But they are disappearing because the water is clear and there's no more food. Now predators can see them and eat them.

That means that smallmouth bass, which are like sight hounds and very aggressive, are having a field day. They like clear water, so they're breeding like rabbits and overtaking the trout population.

The gangbanger bass are also eating all the little smelt, so that there are virtually no more smelt runs like we had in the past -- a family affair at the southern end of the lake in the spring or fall. I honestly don't remember when they were running, since I don't go out at night to catch things with scales.

I do remember that you could see lots of people out at night along the beaches and breakfronts for miles along Lake Shore Drive. Whole families set up their nets and carried flashlights to shine out on the water and attract the silvery little fish. Those days are pretty much a thing of the past.

Then the fish guy warned those of us still listening about the impending arrival of a real monster of the deep -- the big head Asian carp. The name alone should be enough to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who likes to swim or boat on the lakes.

Apparently this is a monster fish that is attracted to noise. So it likes to swim up to boats and close to the beaches. They are big enough to knock you down and sit on you until you drown. Or something. Apparently the Asian carp is so big they have tales of ninety pounders jumping into boats and knocking people into the water. Whether they can drive the boats away has not been confirmed.

The fish guy said it was only a matter of time before the Asian carp gets to the Great Lakes. It's already been seen in the Mississippi River. There are some electrified locks or something in the rivers that feed into the lakes which can help keep the carp out, but it costs $250,000 to turn on the juice. The government decided not to fund this year's jolt, so I guess we're doomed. 

I love listening to late night talk radio; you can learn so much in a fifteen minute ride home.


mosie1944 said...

We have those flying carp in the Missouri River.  It's a real nuisance to people boating on the river.

suzypwr said...

I believe those fish are called Frankenfish? They don't need to come north, we can do without them just fine. Maybe they eat zebra mussels?


gaboatman said...

Mrs. L
Once again you amaze me.  There are guys who have spent their entire life and whole careers studying about all the fish you have mentioned and none of them, not one, could sum it all up as well as you have done here.  The sad thing is that it's all true.  Even the stories about the Big Head Asian Carp.  Learning about these fish kinda gives one that same feeling I had when I saw the movie Jaws for the first time.

bosoxblue6993w said...

i'm no expert, but there may be more than a trace of paranoia in this.    Late night talk shows seem to attract weirdos, conspiracy theorist, Roswell freaks, and other such doomsday sociopaths.    Remember in 1999?    The Y2K freaks virtually infected the late night air waves.

sunnyside46 said...

well, thats' a cheery tale. I think I will go wading now!

ladeeoftheworld said...

I love Lake Michigan.......especially the blustery winters.

mombzbe said...

I think I'll just stay here, landlocked in the desert...with the land sharks.  lol

swibirun said...

Have you heard about the Snakehead ( fish that is apparently taking over any body of water it gets into?  These things can actually survive on dry land.

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