Lamprey Eel: An Invasive Predator/Parasite – Unwelcome Guest in Our Waters

The marine lamprey of the Atlantic Ocean have made their way inland to fresh water lakes formerly denied them, infesting the Great Lakes and the tributary rivers that feed into them. A dramatic loss of bio-diversity is resulting as efforts to curtail their population and spread is underway.

Efforts are ongoing to slow or reduce the invasion, but no practical and permanent solution exists at this time. Scientists have studied over 3000 different chemical aids, searching for the best lampricide that does as little damage to local fish and wildlife populations as possible. The best efforts only slow the damage, such as the selective pesticides such as “TMF” ( 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol) that targets only lampreys, and use of netting and artificial damming to prevent the spawning migration of this pest. Other control measures such as use of another granular preparation called “Bayluscide” which is more cost-effective and also targets the larval stage of the lamprey. This preparation can have potential harm to desirable local fish so this agent is used only in specific circumstances (during certain hatching or migration occurrences) where it will do the most good at eradication of the lamprey larvae and the least harm to other species.

Lamprey Eel

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The marine creatures known as lamprey are not true eels or are they correctly called a fish for they lack certain attributes of either.

These ocean-going creatures enter fresh water to reproduce. Due to the activities of man in the previous and current centuries, they have found ways into fresh water lakes that formerly were unavailable to them. Presently, they inhabit all of the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes as well, and many rivers and tributaries thereof.

They wreck havoc on local species in their feeding cycle, for which local fish have no developed defense against. It is believed that there are millions of them in the new territories of these fresh water lakes. They critically damage the fish they feed upon, creating large open wounds where they rasp away at the flesh and tissues for their food, drinking the blood of their victim. Only about one of every 7 fish will survive an encounter with these water vampires. In the 1950s, nearly every fish caught in Lake Huron showed signs of lamprey attacks, some with as many as ten separate wounds! The sport fishing industry was nearly devastated.

Western culinary tastes do no consider the lamprey eel to be edible so there is no marketability for them. In some European countries like Portugal they are considered to be a delicacy and thus, there is a sustaining market for them. Smoked eel is also a delicacy in Poland. Lamprey are also eaten in the countries of Spain, France, South Korea, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic nations. In The U.K. they are usually used as bait for fishing (dead and cut up) and not for consumption.

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20 Responses to “Lamprey Eel: An Invasive Predator/Parasite – Unwelcome Guest in Our Waters”
  1. stephencardiff Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 11:14 am

    That is one bad ass eel fine set of chompers on it…. Great write up stickman and fantastic pictures too…


  2. barbie67013 Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Great one! Very interesting. These creatures really don’t look so appetizing. I don’t think I could even muster the thought of eating this. lol


  3. Daghost413860 Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Damn! thats one rowdy creature! Reminds me of the movie teeth LMAO
    well written!!


  4. DA Cournean Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    eeewwww. Yucky. You wrote a very good article. I think from now on I will confine my swimming to indoor pools though.


  5. REPuckett Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    You never cease to deliver. Great video.


  6. J.L. Eck Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Net them and make cat food out of them!


  7. moswarthy Says...

    On April 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    If you eat this thing, you might end up chewing on another animals’ teeth


  8. Yovita Siswati Says...

    On April 7, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I cannot imagine eating this eel!


  9. R J Evans Says...

    On April 7, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! It’s like something Sigourney Weaver might set a flame thrower on!


  10. catlord Says...

    On April 7, 2009 at 6:14 am

    I can’t quite get over how much these nasties resemble those G’ouald snake things from Stargate: SG-1

    Eww!


  11. CutestPrincess Says...

    On April 9, 2009 at 9:35 am

    quite interesting read… nice job!


  12. Citizen Says...

    On April 12, 2009 at 5:44 am

    the article is very informative


  13. starrlove9 Says...

    On April 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Wow, scary, very informative….You write excellent research articles and your readers are always in for something new to learn.
    Thank You for sharing. Each article is more and more interesting.
    If one needs to gain knowledge. Your the man


  14. denus Says...

    On April 16, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    very interesting man, nice.


  15. writing4angels Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 8:11 am

    a very troublesome creature. thanks for writing this.


  16. bustahoopa Says...

    On June 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    very interesting article, however, i have been looking for info on freshwater eels of the pacific northwest. i see some in a little stream that is in my backyard that feeds into the columbia river and have been trying to identify them…could these be what i am seeing?…can i fish them?…how do i fish them?. if anybody can shed some light on this subject for me i would greatly appreciate it, tyvm :)


  17. catlord Says...

    On June 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    There are underwater ‘traps’ that can be bought (or even made I suppose) that, baited with a dead fish or other attractant meat, would lure these predators to enter the mesh trap and become unable to escape.
    Here on the Humber River (Toronto, river empties into Lake Ontario) I saw those Management folks retrieving some sort of submerged traps from their canoe, and bring them ashore or measurement, marking and release.
    These underwater trap-cages, location marked with a colored stick, I have been watching these ‘markers’ and sort of knew that this is what they were. Some sort of ‘trap.’

    They were pulling these LARGE phreakish eels out of them, clipping their dorsal fins for identification and releasing them back into the river for subsequent re-capture. I still cannot quite get my mind around how this helps to determine the population, but it they do not re-capture the ‘marked’ eels for weeks or months but continue to capture ‘other’ eels, I guess this implies a robust population in that stretch of the river…

    Years ago, I had sort of wanted to catch one of the small ones (about 6-8 inches long, and about the diameter of my index finger) and keep it as an aquarium pet… until I learned how bad these things are. And now, seeing the ADULT form, -about 2-feet long and nearly the diameter of my WRIST, -I think not! :-/


  18. E BEHAN KITTO Says...

    On June 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    kiaora you people dont know what you are missing in New Zealand they are a delicasy and the fishing spots are handed down from generation to generation .We call them Piarau and look forward to the fishing season every year which is in the winter months. Piarau gently barbecued above hot embers on a bed made of chicken mesh is worth the effort,They have no bones only cartilage so the whole eel is eaten even the headso if you people dont want them send them to us


  19. catlord Says...

    On June 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Although my wife (from Poland) says that eel is a delicacy there, she doesn’t like it. But we (Canada, USA, etc.) should send to the eels to there and abroad. They love ‘em, who are we to deny them their choice. :-D


  20. sher Says...

    On January 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    dam i just caught one


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