One fish, two fish, dead fish?

One fish, two fish, dead fish? Last week Steve Fleury stopped by my house in Westport to share some photos with me. The pictures showed thousands of herring-like fish, dead and washed up along the Lake Champlain shore. Ive since fielded a dozen calls from other sportsman who have witnessed the same. The dead fish are alewives 4 to 8 inch exotic fish that have been introduced to the lake. Unfortunately, these huge die-offs of the fish represent the future of Lake Champlain. I first wrote about the alewife in July 2004, after Vermont biologists discovered a single fish during a routine fisheries sampling. Today they are washing up on our shores by the thousands. The fish die in large numbers because alewives are intolerant of changes in water temperature which is why they are showing up following the ice melt on Champlain. Nearly everyone agrees that the effect alewives will have on the Lake Champlain fishery is just beginning to be felt. In other areas where theyve been introduced like the Great Lakes they quickly become the most prominent fish, making up 75 percent of fish populations in the lake and severely depleting other native like perch and smelt. Lake Champlain is probably in for a similar fate. Some would argue that perch and smelt are already disappearing, and biologists worry that die-offs will provide an unstable forage base for fish like lake lake trout and landlocked salmon. One month our game fish will have an over-abundance of alewives to feed on, and the next month they will be starving. Such alewife collapses in the Great Lakes historically have had huge negative impacts to the sport fishing there, Vermont Biologist Shawn Good said. To make matters worse, the nuisance fish, which have no commercial value, also eat eggs and fry of sport fish like lakers and salmon, thereby reducing their populations in a waterbody. State fisheries biologists from New York and Vermont are using the alewife invasion as a glowing example of the kind of problems a non-native invasive species can cause. Another most certainly would have to be the introduction of trash fish into pristine Adirondack ponds that once held only native brook trout. I cant tell you how disheartening it is to hike several miles into a picturesque pond, only to have a pumpkinseed surface at the end of a line. Youth hunting bill remains alive The bill that would allow 14 and 15-year-old youth to hunt big game under adult supervision easily passed in the state Senate April 8. It now faces its largest hurdle in the Assembly where 65 inner city legislators more than half of the Assembly have effectively killed its chances in the past. Ill keep you apprised of its status. Ice out? Much like last year at this time, most of our northern trout ponds remain buttoned up tighter than an ill-fitting dress shirt. Ive heard reports from the St. Regis, Pharaoh Lake, Saranac Lake and Five Ponds Wilderness Areas with one common theme: ponds wont be fishable for another week. I plan to make a couple treks myself this weekend and will let you know what I find. I usually find a few fishable areas like around ledges and rock outcroppings where the spring sun warms first. The 60-plus degree days forecasted for Thursday and Friday also shouldnt hurt. We shall see. And last but not least ... A bow hunter education course will be offered April 24-26 at the Peru Town Hall. The course is required to hunt with a bow during archery season in New York State and most other states. Pre-registration is required by calling 643-8023. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. His column appears regularly. He can be contacted at johng@denpubs.com

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