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Sport fish benefitting from alewife diet

"There is no doubt they are having a huge impact on the lake," St. Pierre said of the alewife population. "If people just wait a few years, I think you'll see some absolutely huge fish."

St. Pierre pointed to the state's recent effort to stock brown trout in Lake Champlain and said they are growing at the rate of a few pounds per year, now tipping the scale at 7 and 8 pounds.

He said lake trout and salmon are prospering as well. The average for each has gone up several pounds since alewives were introduced as a forage fish.

"The average salmon used to be just a few pounds, now it is more like 5 to 7 pounds, and now that they've broke the 18-pound mark with lakers, it is just a matter of time before someone lands a 20-pounder," St. Pierre said.

At the same time, St. Pierre believes the smelt population remains healthy. He said Mother Nature has forced them to adapt to live with alewives, forcing them deep in 100-200 feet of water where alewives don't like to go.

"People just don't fish for smelt there, which is why you don't see the type of catches we used to have," he said. "They are out in the main lake now, not in places where they were traditionally caught."

John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com

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