Public Reminded to Not Disturb Spawning Sea Lamprey in Connecticut River Drainage

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding anglers and the general public to avoid disturbing spawning sea lamprey that may currently be found in the Connecticut River and several of its tributaries.

“Sea lamprey are native to the Connecticut River basin and play a vital role in the ecosystem,” said Lael Will, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.
 
Vermont is also home to a separate population of non-native sea lamprey that are actively controlled as a nuisance species in Lake Champlain. Confusion can arise over the differing management goals for these two populations of Vermont sea lamprey. We believe it is important to highlight and contrast the conservation value of Connecticut River sea lamprey, educate the public and encourage folks to do their part to protect this important population of fish.”

“If you happen to see a spawning sea lamprey or a carcass, don’t be alarmed,” said Will. “The fish provide a number of important ecological benefits and are considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in both Vermont and New Hampshire.”

sea lamprey's mouth
A sea lamprey’s mouth is jawless, round and sucker-like, and as wide or wider than the head; sharp teeth are arranged in many consecutive circular rows.

Each year sea lamprey spawn during the spring in the main stem of the Connecticut River as far upstream as Wilder Dam, as well as in many tributaries including the West, Williams, Black and White Rivers. Upon returning to freshwater to spawn, adult sea lamprey are non-parasitic and die shortly after spawning, and their carcasses play a critical role in cycling important marine nutrients into freshwater ecosystems.

In the Connecticut River, larval lamprey live in freshwater the first few years of their lives, remaining sedentary and burrowed in sandy substrate while filtering detritus from the water for nutrition. At around 5 years of age, they transform into juveniles and move downstream to the ocean where they attach to and feed on fish as parasites. In turn, lampreys are a food source in the estuarine and marine environment for a number of fish, marine mammals and bird species.

While existing for over 350 million years in the Atlantic, anadromous sea lamprey have co-evolved with their oceanic hosts and are considered in balance with them.

The species is currently managed under the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission, which includes four state agencies, two federal agencies and representatives of the general public. Among other efforts, Vermont Fish & Wildlife has been working to improve fish passage facilities within the Connecticut River drainage to enable native sea lamprey to successfully complete their migrations to spawning habitat.

“In 2018, the dams at Vernon and Bellows Falls passed about 3,100 and 160 sea lamprey respectively, and our goal is to continue to improve fish passage and flows on the river to not only help lamprey spawning, but to support all migrating fish species,” Will said.
To learn more about Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s various fisheries management programs, visit vtfishandwildlife.com.

6 on “Public Reminded to Not Disturb Spawning Sea Lamprey in Connecticut River Drainage

  1. LOU

    THEY PLAY NO CRITICAL ROLE EXCEPT TO KILL OUR FISH . THATS WHY LAKE ONTERIO AND LAKE CHAMPLAIN BEEN TRYING TO KILL THEM OFF FOR 50 YRS. CHECK THE FISH COUNT AT HOLYOKE DAM FISH LADDER IN MASS. YOULL BE SICK TO SEE HOW MANY THEY CAUGHT AND LET OVER THE DAM. THEY HAVE BEEN TRYING TO BRING BACK ATLANTIC SALMON THERE FOR AT LEAST 40 YRS ONLY 3 THIS YEAR. DAAAAAA

  2. LOU

    2019 count this year—2866 lamprey eels so far, 0 atlantic salmon as of today. don’t tell me these eels are doing any good !!! check out the count at HOLYOKE DAM FISH COUNT— plus all other fish that made it.

  3. Coach Hogg

    When I was a child
    I remember the treats of spring
    Grandpa trapped for lamprey and
    Grandma made a delicious lamprey pie.
    The meat is sweet, but not too sweet
    A honeyed crust
    Wild mushroom
    Garlic scapes
    Simply magical

  4. billy burtang

    did you even read the article or are you to ignorant to do that?

  5. Bill Swart

    Sea Lamprey were on their way to eliminating Lake Trout in Lake Michigan. The state did expansive and expensive research to find a poison the would kill the lamprey and have no affect on fish.

    The integrated sea lamprey control program has had great success in minimizing damage to Great Lakes fish. Spawning sea lamprey abundance across the Great Lakes has been reduced by about ninety percent since the onset of the sea lamprey control program.

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